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Valley Health's mobile unit celebrates one year on the road

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Roseanna Puffenbarger, patient navigator with Valley Health, checks the blood pressure for Cori Ashton, director of Oncology at Valley Health, inside The Health Coach, Valley Health's mobile unit, outside Sherando Park's swimming pool on Friday. The Health Coach has fostered 3,400 patient encounters and provided 4,434 screenings throughout the region during the past year. Rich Cooley/Daily

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Roman Murphy, 5, and his brother Christian, 7, of Stephens City walk past the Valley Health Coach, Valley Health's mobile unit, outside the swimming pool at Sherando Park in Stephens City. The mobile unit has been on the road providing free screenings, education and awareness events for one year. Rich Cooley/Daily

By Kim Walter -- kwalter@nvdaily.com

The Health Coach, Valley Health's mobile unit, has officially been on the road providing free screenings, education and awareness events for one year.

Since July 2011, the Health Coach has fostered 3,400 patient encounters and provided 4,434 screenings, according to Director of Mobile Health Services Chris Petsko. Twelve percent of those screenings resulted in the individual finding an area of concern that required a follow up.

The unit, which travels from parts of West Virginia to Page County, offers a variety of screenings, including cholesterol, blood pressure and pulmonary function tests.

"We're not diagnosing, we're just conducting screenings, educating, and guiding a person in the right direction if they need to follow up on a problem," Petsko said.

Some medical issues can be tested for in the Health Coach, but the unit will still provide awareness events on things like cancer. Friday, the unit and associated medical staff held a skin cancer awareness session in Stephens City.

Petsko explained the the Health Coach is really a venue for different service lines from hospitals. There's one staff member that drives the van and arranges events, but the medical staff varies depending on the day's topic. The unit has also lent itself to several community and business partnerships that focus on health assessments.

Each event typically sees anywhere from 20 to 40 people, Petsko said.

"We get lots of thank yous," he said. Some specialty events have provided free dental checks and HIV testing. The unit has also made stops on CCAP a couple times in the past year.

During one excursion to CCAP, a screening was taking place as part of the Heart Attack Risk Program. While one individual was being tested, it was discovered that he was in the middle of a heart attack, Petsko said.

"We've also found a lot of people at risk for diabetes, stroke or other chronic diseases," he said. "This is all about early identification, and then helping the patient to find a physician in their area who can diagnose and combat the problem."

Petsko said the Health Coach has seen some patients multiple times, to check up on things like blood pressure or blood sugar levels.

"Usually the first question is, 'What's the cost,' and when they realize it's free, our services are well received," he said.

Looking ahead, Petsko said he hopes to see the referral process improve. He also wants to diversify the types of screenings that are offered. Recently, the Health Coach was able to add a mechanism that will make bone density checks possible, which will lend to more osteoporosis outreach.

"We're still working on some things, but we really have had a lot of success," he said.

For more information on the Health Coach and where it's headed next, go to www.valleyhealthlink.com/healthcoach or call 540-536-3001.

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