EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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April 29, 2008

Local hospitals offer a pound of prevention

Linda Molchan hopes for a day when the emergency room is empty. And as the trauma program manager and coordinator of sexual assault nurse examiners at Lawrence General Hospital, she's trying to make that happen.

The program teaches safety skills, like wearing helmets, using seat belts, preventing falls and biking safely.

"Injury prevention is a huge part of my job because trauma is preventable," said Molchan, a registered nurse. "Trauma is a teachable moment."

Trauma prevention is just one of several types of preventive programs available to patients through local hospitals. These programs aim to help patients manage health problems, stave off illness, detect diseases early and learn about family safety and violence prevention. In addition to keeping people healthier, these programs can also drive down health care costs.

Many of the programs are free. Here is a sampling of preventive programs available locally:

Screenings

Free screenings for cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes are available throughout the year in a variety of locations.

r Merrimack Valley Hospital hosts free, drop-in blood pressure screenings the first and third Friday of every month. Patients express gratitude that they have the opportunity to just drop in and have their health checked, said Connie Gagnon, a registered nurse and director of education at the hospital in Haverhill.

r At Caritas Holy Family Hospital in Methuen, patients also can register ahead of time for free cancer screenings. Dr. Santos Shetty, chairman of the cancer care committee and chief of radiation oncology at the hospital, said the free screenings are especially useful for patients without primary care physicians. If an abnormality is found during the screening, doctors will refer patients to a physician if they don't already have one.

r Lawrence General Hospital collaborates with the Department of Public Health, Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and other groups for health and screening events, including men's cardiac, diabetes and breast, prostate and cervical cancer screenings.

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