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Locals take advantage of free health screenings

McDonough resident Brian Boyd eagerly joined the morning crowd — an even flow of citizens filing into a 40-foot mobile screening unit to have their cholesterol and blood pressure gauged.

Boyd and some 40 others were able to take advantage of free diabetes screenings Thursday, during the Third Annual Health Mart Healthy Living Tour. The tour, a nationwide venture, celebrates community pharmacists, and features free health screenings.

"The health screening ... provides a great service to the community," said Boyd. "The screening for blood sugar problems and cholesterol level definitely supplement yearly check-ups with one's physician."

The tour paid a visit Thursday to Moye's Health Mart Pharmacy in McDonough, offering residents free blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose and hemoglobin A1C tests.

Boyd, father of a 17-year-old rising college freshman, said he was encouraged the results of his 10-minute screening process. He said he hopes taking proactive steps in his health care will enhance his long term well-being for his and his family's sake.

"In this chaotic time of health service availability, it's nice to see that these basic services can be obtained, short of a doctor visit," he said. "I'd encourage other pharmacies, or other businesses, to get involved in community health outreach providing these types of valuable screenings."

Thursday's screenings were part of a nationwide effort to provide free exams to citizens while raising awareness of diabetes, according to Zach Nixon, tour manager of the Health Mart Healthy Living Tour.

Nixon said the six-month-long nationwide tour kicked off in July, and includes several of its 2,800 affiliate pharmacies. At Thursday's screening event, citizens received a gift bag complete with diabetic supplies and information about health wellness, following their screenings.

Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in Georgia in 2006, according to officials with the Health Mart Healthy Living Tour, citing a 2009 report from the Georgia Department of Community Health.

The report, titled "Diabetes in Georgia," indicated that 9.9 percent of Georgia's adult population (707,000 adults) reported they had been diagnosed with diabetes in 2008. It was estimated that as many as 354,000 adults in Georgia could have undiagnosed diabetes.

McDonough resident Lauren Hernandez, who works as a pharmacy technician and cashier at Moye's Pharmacy, said she invited her husband and mother-in-law to the free screening.

"I've seen young people have diabetes and high blood pressure," The 22-year-old Hernandez said. "It's just good to do, and be up on."

As many as a third of customers served the neighborhood pharmacy deal with diabetes or pre-diabetes conditions, according to Moye's Pharmacy owner Loren Pierce.

"It's epidemic," said Pierce. "Diabetes is one of the fastest growing disease states in the nation. Here, we try to help people manage their diabetes, and we conduct free blood sugar screenings."

Thursday's mobile screening unit visit was the latest such offering at the pharmacy.

Nixon, with the Health Mart Healthy Living Tour, said the unit will be available Saturday at Congressman David Scott's Seventh Annual 13th Congressional District Health Fair. The event is free and will include prostate cancer PSA screenings, clinical breast cancer exams, sickle cell screenings, osteoporosis testing, HIV/ AIDS screenings, vision, hearing and dental screenings, and diabetes screenings.

Nixon anticipates serving about 100 area residents during the mid-day health fair. He said the mobile unit will accept walk-ins.

Saturday's health fair is scheduled to last from 10 a.m., until 2:30 p.m., at Mundy's Mill High School, 9652 Fayetteville Road (Ga. Highway 54) in Jonesboro.

For more information about the Congressional District Health Fair, call (770) 210-5073, or visit www.davidscott.house.gov.