March 10, 2004 | By: Aimee D. Heald

Nearly 125 women gathered at East Jessamine High School in Nicholasville on March 6 to learn ways to improve and enhance their health and well-being. 

This was the seventh annual Women’s Wellness Forum. The event has grown since its beginnings and over the years has served as a way for many community agencies to come together with the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service to provide valuable information to women in Jessamine County and beyond.

“There really was not a comprehensive agency approach to women’s health in Jessamine County before we started this,” said Denise Rennekamp, former Jessamine County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences, now Extension associate for health at the University of Kentucky. “Initially the partners were the health department, Cooperative Extension, the Family Resource Center; eventually Central Baptist Hospital came on board as well.”

Women pay a $5 registration fee that includes lunch and allows them to attend three workshops throughout the morning. Workshops include topics related to nutrition, physical fitness, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. This year some popular workshops included information on the health benefits of cooking with wine and another about the stress reducing capacity of therapeutic touch.

Rennekamp’s main goal for the forum is to make women more aware of issues affecting their daily lives.

“We want to make them aware that they have some control over their health destiny by changes they make in their lifestyles,” she said. “We have a lot of repeat participants and we do evaluations every year after the forum and the results women have experienced have been amazing. Some come back and say their blood pressure has decreased because they started an exercise program. Some say their cholesterol is lower because they have implemented some of our nutrition suggestions.”

Many exhibitors set up in a trade show type atmosphere to interact with forum attendees. Some booths are dedicated to cancer awareness and teaching women how to identify suspect lumps in their breast. Other booths showcase healthy food products or fitness facilities in the area. One booth sponsor offered chair massages from a licensed massage therapist. 

“The Breast Cancer Coalition for Jessamine County has been very active in supporting this program as well,” Rennekamp said. “During lunch we have a fashion show and the models are all modeling in memory or in honor of someone who has had or currently has cancer.”

An important part of the forum is health screenings. For an additional $5 participants can have their blood cholesterol level checked, blood pressure read, derma scan for skin cancer awareness, and a bone density test.

Jessamine County Extension Homemakers President Stephanie Prather has come to the forum each year it’s been offered.

“You get a lot of health information without having to go ask a doctor,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot about breast cancer and diabetes. It’s real informal and people feel more comfortable doing it this way.”

Prather has personally benefited from information she received at the wellness forum. She’d had a lump in her breast for several years and couldn’t get a doctor to take action. 

“Last year I talked to a lady here about breast cancer awareness and she told me how to approach my doctor and make him do something in order for me to find out if it was cancer or not,” she said. “I would not have known those things if I’d not come here. She gave me the courage to do something. “

Fortunately Prather learned that her lump was not cancer, but the peace of mind she has from knowing for certain has been invaluable.

“Now I’m not terrified and I feel a lot better,” she added.

In her new position, Rennekamp works daily to implement the goals of the UK Health Education through Extension Leadership program. She believes the Women’s Wellness Forum will fit in well with those goals.

“It absolutely fits in,” she said. “We’re hoping that Extension agents in every county will start to look at different ways they can partner with community agencies to offer educational programs.”


Writer: Aimee D. Heald 859-257-4736, ext. 267
Source: Denise Rennekamp 859-257-2968, ext. 80834