By Katie Demeria
Spring is only a few weeks away from the valley and according to Mike Wade, chairman of the Community Wellness Festival board, this is the perfect time for locals to start paying closer attention to their health.
The 20th annual Community Wellness Festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Apple Blossom Mall in Winchester.
The event will include various programs designed to encourage positive views of health, including some fitness demonstrations ranging from jazzercise to taekwondo, as well as a Teddy Bear Clinic for kids.
"We want to jumpstart their efforts to refocus after a winter of inactivity, and maybe even eating too much over the holidays," Wade said. "It's an opportunity to be ready for spring and refocus on health and wellness."
Valley Health, Shenandoah University's School of Nursing and the Apple Blossom Mall organized the festival. It is sponsored by the Winchester Medical Center Foundation.
Attendees will have the opportunity to participate in various free screenings, including blood pressure, heart attack risk, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.
COPD screenings are new to the festival this year, and their inclusion reflects the Wellness Festival's continued effort to meet the community's needs.
"Our region has a high incidence of COPD, and that's one reason we're eager to provide those screenings," Wade said.
The festival, he continued, is truly a "community" event -- the board took Valley Health's community needs assessment, conducted earlier this year, into consideration when choosing what would be offered.
"The festival has been geared specifically to some of the needs identified," he said.
This perspective is shared by Shenandoah University's School of Nursing, according to Assistant Professor Christine Newby.
SU Nursing School graduate students chose which tables the school would set up at the festival in accordance to what the community needs, Newby said.
"They looked at the community itself and chose what it requires right now," she said. "Folks might be without insurance, so this is an opportunity to, say, 'I'm going to get my blood pressure checked by someone,' without worrying about cost."
"Our whole goal is to educate the public," Newby added.
The school is contributing five tables, including some with information on bullying, offered by psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner students, and metabolic syndrome, which Newby said has become more prominent in the area due to hypertension and diabetes.
SU pediatric nursing students will also run the Teddy Bear Clinic, encouraging children to bring their stuffed animals or choose a free one at the event so the toys can get their very own check-ups.
"Getting kids aware of their health is one reason for it, as well as helping with less fear when they go into the physician's office," Newby said. "If they see it done to their stuffed animals, then it could be a less frightening environment."
SU's nursing school has been part of the Community Wellness Festival for the past 20 years, she said. It offers the school the opportunity to increase awareness of important health issues in the area.
"Think of the old adage that knowledge is power -- we want to empower people to take charge of their health," Newby said. "It's something they have control over, so I think that's why it's encouraging to see the folks coming out every year."
Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org