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Free Health Screenings This Week as CareForce Returns

Oct. 21, 2008 — It's October, it's flu season and it's time for the annual CareForce program, where residents territory-wide can get free flu and pneumonia shots along with an abundance of medical screenings.
"Though the program is geared toward seniors, 55 and older, we never turn anyone away," said Dr. Cora Christian, who helped launch the CareForce program in the territory at the beginning of this decade.
On St. John, the CareForce screenings will take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday at the St. Ursula's Senior Center. On St. Thomas, the screenings will take place from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday at the Frenchtown Community Center and from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation.
Care Force is a collaboration between the V.I. Medical Institute (VIMI), the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), Hovensa, the Department of Human Services, the V.I. National Guard and the V.I. Air National Guard. CareForce began on the mainland in 1996 as a way for the Indiana National Guard to fulfill its obligations for annual military training.
In 2000, under Christian's guidance, VIMI began facilitating and coordinating private, military and government sponsors to bring medical-examination services to the territory every year.
The program provides free flu and pneumonia shots, blood-pressure screenings, blood-sugar monitoring, dental checks, vision screenings and foot exams. It also provides hemoglobin A1c and lipid profiles and a group of tests that determines the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Christian, speaking from St. Croix Tuesday morning at the second day of that island's program, stressed the importance of seniors taking advantage of the free screenings.
"We want seniors to get this very important defense against illness, which is the flu shot," she said. "It affects senior more seriously. Many seniors live on a limited budget, and are constrained financially."
People should go ahead and eat before coming to the screenings, Christian said.
Though Medicare cards are not necessary for the free screenings, Christian asked folks holding the cards to bring them. There is follow up, she said: "We give them all of their test results right away, so there is a continuum of care."
And there is a new service available, she said.
"This the second year of the 'brown bag,'" Christian said. "We are asking folks to put all their current medications in a brown bag and walk with them."
Pharmacists on both islands have volunteered their services, she said.
"They will sit down with you individually and look over what combinations of drugs you are taking," Christian said. "We don't go against what your doctor is prescribing; we work collaboratively with the physicians."
The Kmart pharmacy on St. Croix has been "phenomenally helpful" this year, she said. Kmart pharmacist Aya Assebian will be at both CareForce locations on St. Thomas all day. Also, pharmacist Don Porter from the Chelsea Drug Store will be at the Frenchtown Community Center Thursday from 8 a.m. to noon. Pharmacist Joni Ducerney from Times Center Doctor's Choice Pharmacy will be at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Anna's Fancy from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Friday. There will also be a pharmacist available on St. John, Christian said.
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