April 19, 2006 | By: Carol Lea Spence

Nearly 250 women gathered recently at the Center for Rural Development in Somerset to ‘talk about it’ – women’s health, that is.

The 11th annual Women’s Health Forum, hosted by the Pulaski County Extension Homemakers, borrowed the “Let’s Talk About It” theme from the American Cancer Society. This year’s event centered on colorectal cancer. Both the ACS and the Lake Cumberland Cancer Consortium were involved in this year’s program, said Pam York, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service family and consumer sciences agent in Pulaski County.

“The Lake Cumberland Cancer Consortium received a $10,000 grant to educate the public on colorectal cancer prevention, so they’re actually helping us put the program on this year,” said York, who was the event’s chairperson.

The forum focused on disseminating information about early detection and treatment of colorectal cancer. A booth in the exhibitor’s hall and a breakout session provided information on the subject. Keynote speaker Sam Dick, WKYT-TV anchorman, spoke during lunch about his family’s experiences with colon cancer – though he joked that mealtime may not be the ideal time to show a tape of his colonoscopy.

The event was a countywide effort and drew upon the support of several local organizations. The planning committee included representatives from many local educational entities including Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital, Lake Cumberland District Health Department, Hospice of Lake Cumberland and the Kentucky Cancer Program as well as others, said York. Joining the Lake Cumberland Cancer Consortium as sponsors were Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital and the Kentucky Cancer Program.

“We have so many partners with this program,” said York. “That really makes it better. We’re just all working together to educate the public on the importance of eating a balanced diet, implementing a physical activity program into their daily lifestyle and taking the time to have preventative screenings done as recommended by their doctor. After all, the Cooperative Extension Service is responsible for funneling the research-based information from the university to the local grassroots people in Kentucky.”

Carol Whipple, of the UK Health Education through Extension Leadership program, joined Amelia Brown, Fayette County FCS agent, in teaching one of the four breakout sessions. Whipple said the event signified how women are valuing themselves and their health. Referring to HEEL’s contribution to the forum, she said the collaborative partnership works to keep abreast of the latest research and then put that out to the communities at the county level.

“HEEL is working to promote positive lifestyle change,” Whipple said. “The partnership with Extension is critical to the work of HEEL. It’s important to be able to get this research to the people who need it and want it.”

For a $10 registration fee, women received lunch, enrollment in two of the four breakout sessions, and had the opportunity to explore different avenues of healthy living through screenings and literature. For the first time, scholarships were offered to those who might not otherwise be able to attend.

“I’m really pleased about that because if you can reach out and help people who need the help, I feel like I’m doing my job,” said York. “One of our goals is just to try to get information to people, more of an awareness or educational component of letting people know that all these different agencies exist here in the county.”

Blood screenings were offered at a reduced rate. “We’re doing a thyroid panel and lipid profile and a glucose sugar and it was for $15, which was a bargain – a big bargain. So that alone made this (event) worthwhile,” said Jill Blair, planning committee member. “Not to mention all the other knowledge going on, because there’s all kinds of testing being done today.”

Participants could stop at any of the 32 exhibits that offered health screenings or information, including tests showing lung capacity and skin damage, information about nutrition, exercise, smoking cessation and wigs for patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Brenda Williamson, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program assistant in Pulaski County discussed nutrition at the Extension booth. “One of the things that we also like to show at the health forum is to bring some of the fat tube models to let people be aware how much fat is in the foods that they’re choosing,” she said. “Because even when we read the nutritional facts and we see that something has maybe 5 grams of fat in it, it’s hard for us to get a visual image of that.” The image of a tube filled with lard can sometimes encourage people to change their eating habits, said Williamson.

First-time participant Debra Hawkins is working diligently to live a healthier lifestyle by exercising, practicing good nutrition and giving up cigarettes, so she took advantage of having so much information in one location. “I’m learning a lot of things from the different booths and about my body and what I’ve done to my body and things I can now improve,” she said. “There’s just so much going on here and I’m really excited about it.”


Pam York, (606) 679-6361