May 2, 2008

University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension family and consumer sciences extension agents across the state will educate women on a variety of health topics and preventive measures through upcoming women’s wellness programs.

Programs vary to meet the specific needs of each county. Topics can range from skin care to cancer to cholesterol and are oftentimes presented by medical experts.

Many rural communities without a hospital may find it challenging to keep the community informed of health issues and the importance of having annual exams. Kay Kennedy, Washington County family and consumer sciences agent, said this is why Washington County organizations, including the Cooperative Extension Service, formed a Community Wellness Coalition.

This year, the coalition received a grant from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky to host their first women’s wellness program May 31 at the River of Life Community Church, near Springfield. The event is free and open to all women in Washington County.

The all-day event will include breakout sessions in which women will learn about topics ranging from stress relief to gardening to self defense. Women may take advantage of several health screenings including blood pressure, skin cancer, breast exams, body mass index, blood glucose and cholesterol. Also, local business women will set up booths to display and sell their products. Baretta Casey, director of the UK College of Medicine Center for Rural Health in Hazard, is the guest speaker.

“We hope women will leave knowing the importance of screenings, prevention ideas and community resources,” Kennedy said.

This is also the first year for the McLean County extension office to have a women’s wellness program. Like Washington County, a hospital doesn’t exist in McLean County. Amanda Hardy, McLean County family and consumer sciences agent, said because of the need for preventive health education in the community, McLean County Cooperative Extension partnered with the West Area Health Education Center in Madisonville to develop a women’s health issues forum.

Dr. Karla Turley from the Trover Health System in Madisonville will present a preventive health talk from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. June 24 at the McLean County Senior Citizen’s Center.

“I’m hoping to make sure they get their yearly check-ups and know that UK offers free ovarian cancer screenings,” Hardy said.

Hardy said she also annually helps women register for ovarian screenings at UK’s hospital and its affiliates and hopes the program increases the number.

For the last two years, Jackson County Cooperative Extension Service has sponsored a women’s health fair and luncheon at Camp Andrew Jackson in McKee. This program is held in conjunction with the Christian Appalachian Project’s retreat at the camp. Women participating in the retreat and from the general public are invited to attend. Michelle Smith, family and consumer sciences agent in Jackson County, said health care providers and vendors set up booths to share health information with participants. This year’s free program is from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. May 15.

Harrison County Cooperative Extension is no stranger to women’s wellness programs. For the past 13 years, extension has been a member of a local women’s health coalition, which has hosted speakers discussing a variety of women’s health topics, during the county’s annual Women’s Health Issues Seminar. Each year, the event explores new topics. Many times, speakers are new doctors in the community and the seminar is their first chance to meet members of the community.

“One of the values of this day is we are able to bring experts into the area for the public to meet and get to know who they normally wouldn’t have access to,” she said. “Their comfort level is greater, and they are more likely to seek doctors out for follow-up appointments if they get the opportunity to meet them beforehand.”

The program boasts many success stories in the years since it began. One of those stories involved a woman who had a precancerous mole removed after attending one of the sessions.

“She credits us with saving her anxiety, the cost of treatments and from the possibility of having to deal with cancer,” Case said.

Harrison County’s Women’s Health Issues Seminar begins at 9 a.m. May 6 at the Cynthiana Christian Church. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. Topics include medication management, kidney disease, sharing memories and skin changes. The dermatologist speaker will also conduct DermaScan and facial screenings. Cost to attend is $5 and includes lunch.

Many extension offices offer women’s health-related programs. For more information about area women’s wellness programs, contact a local UK Cooperative Extension Service office.

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