City healthcare committee to create public health fair

Sean C. Morgan

The City of Sweet Home’s ad hoc healthcare committee is moving forward with plans to host a health fair in Sweet Home, with common health screenings, to help promote prevention.

City councilors, citizens and representatives of Samaritan Health Services met for the second time on April 18 as part of an effort to improve communication between Samaritan and the Sweet Home community.

Marty Cahill, CEO of Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital, reminded the group of the Benjamin Franklin quote: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

It’s the kind of thing that goes hand in hand with programs already underway at Samaritan, ranging from a fitness gym and nutrition programs to classes for those diagnosed with diabetes.

With diabetes, for example, the costs of the disease go up significantly compared to early lifestyle changes, he said.

Throughout the community, people don’t get the healthcare they need, and insurance programs aren’t promoting wellness programs as much as they should, said Mayor Jim Gourley. Some insurance companies don’t understand what diabetics need.

Sweet Home has a fitness center, Gourley said, but insurance companies won’t have anything to do with a membership.

Cahill said that Samaritan is motivated to change these things, but he doesn’t know if anyone can get the insurance companies to change.

He cited Franklin’s comment, noting the importance of prevention as opposed to curing the problems that could be prevented.

Likewise, said Bob Dalton, a board member at Sunshine Industries, the clients don’t get the preventive healthcare they need either.

Local screening programs for diabetes, clogged arteries and other conditions is something a community can participate in to help the situation, Dalton said. Some people have learned about conditions they didn’t know they had by going through a screening.

Samaritan can help with non-diagnostic screenings, Cahill said. The organization did it with a casino in Lincoln City.

“What’s the cost?” asked Councilor Dave Trask.

Samaritan volunteered as a community outreach and part of a fair with other participants, Cahill said. He told the committee that Samaritan could help get people to the fair if the committee put together a “robust fair.”

Put that together with speakers, it would be a good event for Sweet Home, Dalton said.

“I think we can bring together some decent testing,” Cahill said. Samaritan and other participants could provide screenings for diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure, for example, three or four things people might like to have.

“It really does raise the community’s awareness about some health issues,” said City Manager Craig Martin.

Through the fair, organizers could provide walking maps of Sweet Home, to help people find out where the paths are in the area, to help promote exercise, Gourley said.

In related business, committee members are interested in an urgent care here in Sweet Home. It’s a service provided at the Sweet Home clinic, but members of the committee are looking for a more extensive service.

Gourley said he would like to see some kind of goal-oriented road map for developing healthcare facilities in Sweet Home. He would like to find out from Sweet Home residents if they could get what they wanted, what it would be.

Community involvement is going to be important, Cahill said, and Samaritan can ask the questions, although it may not be able to do 100 percent of what people ask for based on its fiduciary responsibility. He talked about possible development for affordable housing and clinical spaces and expanding what Samaritan is already doing.

Samaritan is currently working on a needs assessment, Cahill said. It’s something that hospitals must do every three years. Samaritan officials are looking at things like homelessness, housing, food scarcity and smoking cessation.

Plans for future service could be a part of a community health fair, Martin said.

It might piggyback on the annual Safety Fair, which is scheduled for July 21, Cahill said.

“I think that health fair is a really good idea,” Trask said, and he believes the Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District, where he is a volunteer firefighter, would get involved in it.

Attending the meeting last week were Cahill, Martin, Trask, Gourley and city Planning Services Manager Laura LaRoque,

The committee meets next at 6:30 p.m. on June 13 in the City Council Chamber, inside the City Hall Annex behind City Hall, 1140 12th Ave. Call the city manager’s office at (541) 367-8969.