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Health fairs to offer screenings in Delta-region Wal-Mart stores

BY Drew Buono

NEW ORLEANS —Wal-Mart and the Delta Regional Authority have teamed up to fight diabetes. The partnership was announced last month as a way of bringing affordable, accessible health care to the Delta region, which includes Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Illinois.

The diabetes awareness program, called the Hometown Health Fairs, began in Arkansas on Sept. 29 and just recently was held at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Clarksdale, Miss. It will continue until the middle of March 2008. The program was due in a large part to a $500,000 donation made by the Wal-Mart Foundation. The Hometown Health Fairs are part of the DRA’s expansion of its Healthy Delta program.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 20.8 million Americans, or 7 percent of the population, have diabetes. The percentage rises even higher when confined to the Delta region, which includes 240 counties and parishes, where almost 10 percent of the population has diabetes.

“The healthcare reform effort in America simply must include disease-management programs, and Wal-Mart is pleased to support this important diabetes education program in an eight-state region,” said Linda Dillman, executive vice president of benefits, risk management and sustainability for Wal-Mart. “Diabetes is a real threat to millions of Americans. With pharmacies, health clinics and vision centers, Wal-Mart is often a health destination in small towns. We look forward to doing everything we can to help the Delta Regional Authority help people manage and avoid diabetes.”

Each state will host eight of these health fairs. The areas were determined by the governors of each state assisting the DRA with information on where help was needed. A total of 21,297 TV, radio and cable spots will air in 13 media markets across the eight DRA states to help promote the fairs. The TV ads will run on affiliate TV, along with radio spots on country, gospel and urban format radio stations.

The television and radio spots promote a free diabetes testing kit for each caller who requests one. The testing kits are being provided by Byram Healthcare, a private-sector partner in the Healthy Delta program. When a Delta resident calls the toll-free number, diabetes specialists offer assistance with information about the disease, and then they give a diabetes-risk test and help the caller find a doctor. Callers also are helped with Medicaid questions. The testing kits originally are valued at $95 each and include blood-sugar testing meters, testing strips and lancets.

Each Hometown Health Fair will include free biometric screenings of body composition, weight, body fat and body mass index. Those attending also will have their total cholesterol, HDL levels, LDL levels, triglyceride levels and glucose levels checked. Free blood-pressure screenings and other health information will be available as well. The screenings and information will be given by clinicians from Elite Wellness, as well as healthcare providers from each local area.

The first 270 people receive the free biometric screening, which takes 15 to 20 minutes, and then the clinicians and healthcare providers will take an additional 10 minutes to go over the information with the patient. The health fairs will run from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., but Wal-Mart and the DRA agree that clinicians will stay as long as possible at each location to get the message across and to provide the information to attendees.

The DRA’s goal for these health fairs is to provide the information about high-risk health concerns in each area, obtained from these screenings, to local business and government leaders, so that proper actions can be taken to correct these problems.

“Health care is a key component of the DRA’s vision for the Delta because strong, growing communities are built with healthy workforces,” said Pete Johnson, co-chairman of the DRA. “If a worker isn’t healthy, that worker can’t hold a job, support a family or contribute to the economic growth of the community. When there are health issues that affect workers across a wide geographic area, the entire economy is affected. The Delta is unfortunately the unhealthiest part of the country. If the health of the workforce here isn’t drastically improved, our region’s economy will never advance as far as it should.”

Wal-Mart also announced a partnership with Xavier University in New Orleans to reopen the university’s disease management clinic that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Under the agreement, Wal-Mart will allow the university space for its clinic in its Harihan, La., store until the on-campus clinic is reopened, which they hope will occur by year’s end.

Both the DRA and Wal-Mart would like to continue and expand the health fair program. “Wal-Mart will continue to get involved in areas concerning health questions,” Dillman said.

Johnson stayed closer to the DRA’s home when talking about future programs stating that, the South is “where our home is.”

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Fred’s reports both monthly and quarterly record sales

BY Allison Cerra

MEMPHIS, Tenn. Fred’s Inc. reported record sales for the five-week and eight-month periods which ended Oct. 6, 2007.

The company said Friday that its total sales for the month increased 2 percent to $161.4 million compared to the same period last year. Total sales for the year-to-date period increased 5 percent to $1.157 billion.

Same store sales for the month rose 1 percent on top of a 5 percent increase in September last year. On a comparable store basis, sales increased 1.3 percent through the first eight months of fiscal 2007 compared with a 2.7 percent gain in the year-earlier period. Same-store sales are a key predictor of how well the company performs in stores that have been open for several years, and how well the newly open stores will do in the future.

“September sales came in at the low end of our forecasted range of a 1 percent to 3 percent increase, affected by unusually warm weather across our markets and the disruption caused by the updating of 98 stores under our refresher program,” said Fred’s Stores chief executive officer Michael J. Hayes. “We look forward to finishing our refresher program in October with the last 60 stores and to a better economic environment for our customers going forward, as the benefits of the minimum wage increase and the focus of Federal Reserve Board on the credit crunch take hold.”

Fred’s opened four stores at the end of September, bringing total store openings to 22 for the year-to-date period. These new store openings have been balanced by the company’s decision to close underperforming stores. In the remaining months, Fred’s Stores said that it plans to open 14 additional stores, with no further planned closings, which will result in a net increase in stores of 2 percent for the year.

Fred’s Inc. operates 702 discount general merchandise stores, including 24 franchised stores in the southeastern United States.

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Target to open another 61 stores nationwide

BY Allison Cerra

MINNEAPOLIS Target announced that it will be opening an additional 61 Target stores, the company said Friday.

The stores, which will all open Oct. 14, will open in 22 different states. The majority of the stores are making their debut in Arizona, California, Ohio and Texas.

In addition to offering the latest in trend-right merchandise, Target also brings a 44-year tradition of community involvement. The retail chain commits itself to local communities donating more than $3 million each week to area nonprofit organizations, becoming involved in local volunteerism efforts through Target Volunteers, and orchestrating other special projects that help meet area social service, arts and education needs.

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