Health & Fitness : M.V. Hospital Health Fair
This past stormy Saturday, hundreds stopped by the Martha's Vineyard Hospital Health Fair to gather information, get free screenings, take classes, and learn about some of the health and human services available on the Island.
The hospital has sponsored the health fair for more than a decade now, offering all licensed or credentialed providers and provider organizations a chance to present their services to the public. This year, 42 participants lined the main hallway of the hospital, spread down the central corridor, the doctors' wing and lab hall, and spilled over into the cafeteria.
Among the biggest draws are free tests provided by the hospital. "A lot of people come here just for their yearly cholesterol screening," said Rachel Vanderhoop, director of development and community relations. "We did well over 100 this year." She added that bone density scans and skin cancer screenings are also very popular.
The fair provides medical specialists the opportunity to discuss and advertise their services. Dr. David Finkelstein used the opportunity, which coincided with eye health month, to provide attendees with glaucoma tests, something that many people do not seek regularly.
"Glaucoma is the sneak thief of vision," he said. "There are zero symptoms." And yet glaucoma is treatable, especially when detected early.
Pediatric dentist Bruce Golden expected to do on-the-spot infant exams but not many children attended. Still, this Island newcomer - who treats patients part-time at Dr. Robert Herman's practice and volunteers once a week at the hospital's dental clinic - found his first visit to the fair to be productive.
Dr. Golden has practiced pediatric dentistry for 41 years and is one of only 4,000 such practitioners in the country. At the fair, he spoke to parents about the advantages of seeking a specialist and made helpful contacts with other care providers.
"Meeting people is how one builds a practice," he notes. "I take every chance to let people know what I have to offer is available on the Island."
Several non-profit organizations set up at the fair to explain their missions. Vineyard Health Care and the Vineyard House shared a table, to describe addiction services available. The Vineyard House also presented their plan for a proposed sober living campus.
Krystin St. Onge of the AIDS support group of Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard hoped to reach out to Islanders who might benefit from the services provided on the Vineyard through their partner, Island Health Care. She said that confidentiality issues often hinder the efforts of organizations in raising awareness to AIDS or HIV patients. She said she hopes that meeting the public through forums like the health fair will encourage clients to seek help.
Ms. Vanderhoop, the hospital development director, said she has noticed an increase in available alternative health care over the years she's overseen the health fair. "A few years ago when we opened the fair up to the complementary care community. we found that that piece is very popular."
In the conference room, MJ Bindu Delekta of Sacred Circle of Yoga offered a free session on medical qigong - an energy healing practice. "The thing that has made me so happy this year is that people are stopping by because their doctors are telling them to," Ms. Delekta said.
Vineyard Complementary Medicine, a group that offers a variety of services, set up what owner Susan Sanford called, "Our own mini health fair," in the cafeteria. This year she chose to focus demonstrations and treatments on back pain management and treatment strategies since, she said, "That's what most of our referrals are … It was also a way we could integrate all of our services in our exhibit." She and her associates demonstrated basic back exercises and stretches. Chiropractor Dr. Bryan Graham did posture and EMG assessments, and there was ear acupuncture focused on the back. Craniosacral treatments were offered, and Ms. Sanford demonstrated her specialty: the Asian art of cupping.
Those businesses geared toward fitness and wellness were on hand to present options for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Ms. Delekta led a free yoga class, which was very popular. She was available to discuss the various classes, workshops, and sessions at her studio, and she offered discounts to those who signed up.
Curves owner Bethany Seidman used the fair to spread the word about the all-women fitness center. She said the philosophy is a combination of healthy eating and exercise.
The local Curves offers a complimentary weight management program, with free classes once a month open to the public. The local club also participates in the CurveSmart program that involves a programmable, personalized card that holds a member's data, based on periodic fitness evaluations and individual progress. Curves members also get one-on-one attention as well as a group environment for support. The fair's timing this year was perfect since it coincided with a special offer she has made, in which the service fee will be waived through this Sunday, in exchange for a donation of a bag of groceries to the Island Food Pantry.
Ms. Vanderhoop said the hospital does not charge any of the participants. It sponsors the fair each year as a community service.
"Our job is to be here when you need us, but it's also to help make this community healthier," Ms. Vanderhoop said. "We put a lot of focus on preventative care and want to help people be knowledgeable about health issues that they're facing and find out about health care providers on the Cape and islands. It's a great opportunity for people to get their info out there."
Gwyn McAllister is a frequent contributor to The Times.