EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 29, 2008

Local hospitals offer a pound of prevention

By Alexandra Pecci

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.

Diabetes management

r Holy Family Hospital offers diabetes programs that reach not only people who already have the disease but those at risk for developing it.

Diabetes care coordinator Beth Cronin, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, said lifestyle changes like losing weight and exercising more can help people stave off Type 2 diabetes.

For people who already have the disease, the hospital offers an education program that's recognized by the American Diabetes Association, as well as a support group.

"Diabetes is such an epidemic," she said, adding that prevention should start early. "We really should be encouraging these types of lifestyles in young people."

r Lawrence General also has a certified diabetes education program and monthly support group.

r Parkland Medical Center in Derry, N.H., has diabetes management education classes and a free diabetes support group, which includes discussion with a diabetes nurse educator.

Safety programs

r Personal and family safety are the focus of programs at Holy Family and Lawrence General Hospitals.

Molchan is responsible for trauma prevention outreach at Lawrence General. The program offers services like child passenger safety checkpoints where parents can get car seats and booster seats checked for proper installation. The program also includes fall prevention at senior centers, sexual assault prevention at high schools and colleges and bike safety.

Doug Gaudette directs the Family Safety Project at Holy Family, where the goal is to "put a brake on the sometimes runaway wagon of abuse." The project focuses on domestic violence and includes a batterer intervention program, a responsible fathering program and interventions for children who have witnessed violence. Gaudette said men who go through certified batterer intervention programs have a lower rate of recidivism than those who don't.

"We want to reach as many men as possible," Gaudette said.

Both Lawrence General and Holy Family also offer CPR classes.

r At Parkland, people can receive American Heart Association CPR certification during classes offered throughout the year. Parkland also has a Safe Sitter program, which teaches baby-sitter safety skills.

Smoking cessation

r Holy Family has an eight-week smoking cessation support and educational program. Participants pay a $25 deposit that they get back when they finish to program, "to promote within themselves that they can do this," said Marcelo Castro, RN BSN, manager for respiratory care and pulmonary function testing. Carbon monoxide tests on participants at the beginning and end of each eight-week session "give them a visual to show them how detrimental smoking is to their health," Castro said.

Castro said most patients learn from the program that quitting smoking isn't just about willpower; that there are chemical and psychological aspects of quitting. Patients also learn that they don't have to do it alone and that their smoking affects other people in their lives. Often, patients say they're quitting for their children, rather than themselves, Castro said.

Upcoming prevention programs

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Skin cancer screening

Where: Holy Family Hospital, 70 East St. Methuen

When: Tuesday, May 20, 4 to 6 p.m.

How: Free. Appointments required. Call 800-488-5959

Diabetes support group

Where: Parkland Medical Center, 44 Birch St., Derry

When: Meetings second Monday of the month, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Next meetings May 12, June 9

How: Call Laura Simpson, diabetes education coordinator, 603-432-1500 ext. 3229

Car seat checkpoint

Where: Lawrence General Hospital, 1 General St. Lawrence

When: June 7, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

How: Free

Diabetes support group

Where: Holy Family Hospital, 70 East St. Methuen

When: 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday, May 8; Thursday, Sept. 11; Thursday, Dec. 11.

How: Call Norma D'Auvergne, 978-687-0156 ext. 2161

Blood pressure screenings

Where: Merrimack Valley Hospital, 140 Lincoln Avenue Haverhill

When: First and third Friday of every month from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

How: Free. Call 978-521-8552

2008 Safe Sitter

Where: Suite 102, Nutfield Professional Building, Parkland Medical Center, 44 Birch St., Derry

When: Saturdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., June 21, Oct. 4, Nov. 8, Dec, 13; Tuesdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., April 29, July 15, Aug. 19; Thursdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., May 1, July 17, Aug. 21.

How: $50

Smoking cessation program

Where: Holy Family Hospital, 70 East St. Methuen

When: Monday evenings from 7 to 9.

How: $25, returned at the end of program. Call 1-800-488-5959, ext. 31.

CPR training

Where: Parkland Medical Center, 44 Birch St., Derry

When: Mondays, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., June 9, Aug. 11, Oct. 20, Dec. 15

How: $35. Call 603-432-1500

Where: Holy Family Hospital, 70 East St. Methuen

When: 6:30-9:30 p.m.; May 12, June 2, July 21, Aug. 18, Sept. 22, Oct. 27, Nov. 24, Dec. 8

How: $40. Call (978) 687-0156 ext. 2271