HOPE Screens 500 at New Mexico Health Fair
More than 500 hundred people visited the HOPE booth for free blood pressure and BMI screenings and more.
Staff from Project HOPE’s HABITS for Life program in New Mexico participated in the state’s largest health fair on January 22 and 23rd. More than 500 hundred people visited the Project HOPE booth for free blood pressure and BMI screenings and HOPE partner VisionQuest provided free retinal screenings with expert interpretation by optometrists.
Many visitors, from as far away as Española (87 miles) and Shiprock (211 miles) told HOPE staff that they had traveled to the annual health fair because they did not have insurance or a primary care doctor. One Albuquerque family of four said they attend every year. “This is our annual check up in lieu of having a primary care doctor,” the father explained. While his children have health insurance, he and his wife do not.
In New Mexico, 32 of 33 counties are medically underserved and budget cuts are making it harder than ever for low-income people to access health care. Project HOPE’s HABITS for Life program supports state and other organizations’ efforts to provide health care services in remote locations and in situations where health insurance and costs are issues.
Typical of the people screened was one woman and her husband who had their own business. The woman had high blood pressure, but didn’t earn enough to pay for insurance.
Another woman living with diabetes was able to get a complete retinal screening (VisionQuest’s equipment provides large, high-resolution digital images to identify eye diseases without uncomfortable dilation.) Her insurance did not cover the costly procedure, which is critical to identifying potential eye problems and preventing progression of diseases like diabetic retinopathy that can lead to blindness.
Sioux tribal member and Albuquerque resident Wallace, 54, was diagnosed with diabetes 15 months ago. Although he has noticed his eyesight worsening, he’s been hesitant to get glasses because his vision has not been stable. He’d not had his retina checked before. “Most men are in denial,” he said, “But I figure I better find out what’s going on.” Wallace controls his diabetes with diet and exercise and welcomed the chance to learn more about the health of his eyes, his BMI, and blood pressure.
Project HOPE Health Educator Tonya Covington emphasized the importance of such screenings in a state with so many low-income residents and epidemic diabetes rates. “We’re one of the few organizations here doing all of this for free. This is all part of HOPE’s mission to come to the poorest communities and help people who don’t have health care.”
HOPE staff was assisted by partners from the University of Saint Francis and the University of New Mexico (UNM) Nursing and Health Sciences. In addition to screenings, HOPE staff and their partners shared information about healthy lifestyles and everyone who visited the booth walked away with a free pedometer to help them reach a daily goal of 10,000 steps. Project HOPE staff and volunteers also provided visitors with information about getting access to insurance, doctors, and needed medications. Additional information about the Project Hope HABITS for Life program can be obtained by calling 888-576-1113 or via e-mail at [email protected].