HEALTH

Walgreens, AARP join forces to provide free health screenings in nationwide tour

BY Antoinette Alexander

NEW YORK Walgreens and AARP are embarking on a two-year, national mobile health screening tour in an effort to provide more than $60 million worth of free health screenings.

This marks the fifth year Walgreens has committed to providing free health screenings via a traveling health screening campaign.

This year’s initiative, which aims to administer more than 2.5 million free screenings, kicks off in New York City’s Rockefeller Plaza and for the next two years will hold screening events in more than 3,000 communities nationwide and Puerto Rico. The screenings include total cholesterol levels, blood pressure, bone density, glucose levels, waist circumference and body mass index.

The AARP/Walgreens Wellness Tour is comprised of nine custom-equipped buses with a staff of Walgreens’ trained medical technicians. The buses will travel separate routes canvassing the country and will spend several days in designated cities providing free services at local events, community centers, Walgreens store locations and other select locations with a special emphasis on underserved communities. Results are instantly provided and consumers are encouraged to visit a doctor or healthcare provider to discuss them. Visitors also have access to free educational information on a variety of health-and-wellness issues that are available in both English and Spanish.

“During previous tours, I witnessed how these free screenings can be a life-saving resource. We’re proud to carry on that tradition,” stated Greg Wasson, Walgreens president and CEO. “Joining with AARP for our renewed effort is perfect because of its dedication to improving lives and offering greater access to health resources, particularly among those most in need. Together, we can tap into our strong community networks to make sure the tour reaches the people who need us most.”

Of those screened in 2008:

  • 72.8% had high blood pressure levels
  • 68.2% had high body mass index
  • 65.9% had low bone density
  • 60.5% had a waist circumference outside of the normal range
  • 38% had high cholesterol levels
  • 13.3% had high glucose levels.

For more information, customers can call (866)-484-8687 or visit www.aarpwalgreens.com/tour.

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Food-borne illness frequency remains almost unchanged, CDC reports

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA The incidence of the most common food-borne illnesses has changed very little over the past three years, according to a 10-state report released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The findings are from 2008 data reported by the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet), a collaborative project of CDC, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, Food and Drug Administration and 10 state sites.

Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, Listeria, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157, Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrio, and Yersinia did not change significantly when compared to the previous three years (2005-2007), the latest data showed. Although there have been significant declines in the incidence of some foodborne infections since surveillance began in 1996, these declines all occurred before 2004. The incidence of Salmonella infections has remained between 14 and 16 cases per 100,000 persons since the first years of surveillance.

“This year’s report confirms a very important concern, especially with two high-profile Salmonella outbreaks in the last year,” stated Robert Tauxe, deputy director of CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases. “We recognize that we have reached a plateau in the prevention of foodborne disease and there must be new efforts to develop and evaluate food safety practices from the farm to the table. The foodborne division at CDC is planning to increase the capacity of several health departments so that outbreaks can be better detected and investigated.”

The USDA’s Salmonella Initiative Program, which began in 2006, has already significantly reduced the presence of Salmonellain raw meat and poultry products, according to David Goldman, assistant administrator of USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service.

“We have worked hard to reduce contamination in FSIS-regulated products and have seen marked success in Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes,” Goldman said. “We are concerned about the lack of progress in reducing the incidence of foodborne illness and believe this report points to the need for better information about sources of infection.”

The FDA is using new tools to help predict potential threats to foods and the best options for prevention to meet the many challenges of an increasingly complex food-supply chain, according to David Acheson, associate commissioner for foods.

“The FDA is embarking on an aggressive and proactive approach in protecting and enforcing the safety of the U.S. food supply,” he said. “The Agency is committed to make the necessary changes to keep unsafe products out of the marketplace before they reach consumers.”

Consumers can reduce their risk for food-borne illness by following safe food-handling and preparation recommendations and by avoiding consumption of unpasteurized milk, raw or undercooked oysters, or other raw or undercooked foods of animal origin such as eggs, ground beef, and poultry. Risk also can be decreased by choosing pasteurized eggs, high pressure-treated oysters, and irradiated produce. Everyone should wash hands before and after contact with raw meat, raw foods derived from animal products, and animals and their environments.

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Fat-rich diet may reduce epileptic seizures, according to study

BY Alaric DeArment

MILWAUKEE Most parents would not let their children eat a lot of whipping cream, vegetable oil and butter, but a new study shows that diet rich in those might benefit children with epilepsy.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin and appearing in the November issue of the journal Epileptica, indicates that a ketogenic diet might limit seizures.

According to a recent study of 43 patients at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin that has yet to be published, the approach has been effective. But, the researchers cautioned, the diet would require close supervision by healthcare professionals.

“This diet cannot be tried by parents without close medical management and follow-up,” lead study author and MWC professor of pediatrics Mary Zupanc said.

Of the children who started on the ketogenic diet between 2002 and 2006, half had a reduction in seizure frequency by more than 90% and had improved brain functioning. Most of the children who responded to the diet had either the most common form of epilepsy or a severe form called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

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