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- Aria Finger, CEO of DoSomething.org;
- Rosie Henson, SVP Prevention and Early Detection at the American Cancer Society;
- Barry Hummel, Jr. of the Quit Doc Foundation;
- Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids;
- Harold Paz, chief medical officer for Aetna;
- Steve Schroeder, director of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at the University of California San Francisco; and
- Aaron Zeiler, the 2015 Frank Karel Fellow in Public Interest Communications.
Retail health fairs — one of the most exciting public health trends
Retail health fairs — both mega events, such as Walmart’s “America’s Biggest Health Fair” on Oct. 10, 2015, or smaller, periodic local events hosted annually by thousands of retailers across the country — represent one of the simplest mechanisms for massive, individualized public awareness around such key health issues as flu prevention, early diabetes detection and/or prevention, and more.
(Click here to view DSN's special report on retail health fairs, "Health Event Horizon.")
These events represent an access point for health services for millions of Americans who currently don’t engage with the system, whether it is for lack of insurance, lack of time or simply lack of knowledge on where to start.
At the event Walmart organized last October, we completed nearly 300,000 screenings and more than 50,000 immunizations. Based on public health models, we estimate that nearly 7,000 customers learned that they had high blood pressure, and 3,000 customers learned that they might be diabetic. We also received hundreds of stories of customers for whom the screenings represented a wake-up call and who, in many cases, sought out additional medical professionals for follow-up.
Knowledge is the first step in one’s journey to self-improvement; after all, you can’t take action unless you know there is an issue.
Hosting these types of events makes a lot of sense for grocers and retail pharmacies. Not only can you engage consumers where they already are, but, more importantly, you can present them with a set of solutions around healthier food, activities and supplements.
Walmart, from a public health perspective, is uniquely positioned due to its sheer size and scale — estimated at 140 million customer visits weekly — and the broad assortment of products, services and solutions of which customers can take advantage to launch their journey to “live better” with healthy fresh food, pharmacy, vision, over-the-counter medications and exercise equipment and electronics.
In addition to building on the success of our “America’s Biggest Health Fair,” we are planning to host a national event in March with a special focus on our associates, and another in October.
Using the health fair as a starting point, we’re crafting solutions to assist members in taking simple actions to deepen their knowledge around a specific health issue and to take clear, simple steps. Payers have shown extreme interest in collaborations where we engage with members in a positive, simple and meaningful way is an area with which most struggle.
I am convinced that expanding these types of community-based health access programs can play a key role in creating a more sustainable health delivery system for our country. However, I am heavily biased by my own experience; 10 years ago, I spent time in the Southeast Asian country of Cambodia assisting the Ministry of Health to increase access to HIV/ AIDS care and treatment programs.
In Cambodia’s recent history, the Khmer Rouge had annihilated the entire medical professional class during its brutal regime from 1975 to 1979 and left the government with no choice but to explore nontraditional ways to expand access to treatment for their people. With the assistance of some great NGO leaders, Cambodia was able to roll out a number of community health programs leveraging simple tools delivered, in many cases, by nonmedical professionals to combat such diseases as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria, and achieved some great results, including medication adherence rates, which, if we could replicate in our country, would be significant.
Alex Hurd is senior director product development, growth and payer innovation at Walmart health and wellness.