June 15, 2008


 GHLIT Wellness Center returns

Free screenings provide advanced warning of health threats 

Posted June 1, 2008

The AVMA Group Health & Life Insurance Trust is pleased to once again sponsor the Wellness Center, offering free health screenings to AVMA members and their spouses during the AVMA Annual Convention, taking place July 19-22 in New Orleans.

Dr. James H. Brandt and his wife are among the hundreds of conference attendees who take advantage of the free screenings. They find the screenings to be a convenient way to determine how well their chronic conditions are responding to treatment.

"My wife and I have high cholesterol and mild hypertension," said Dr. Brandt, a former AVMA president and current AVMA GHLIT trustee. "We have been monitoring these chronic issues for several years and seem to medically have them well under control. But one never knows this until a lab test confirms a normal condition and that the medications are not adversely affecting organ systems, causing abnormal results."

Members and spouses who take part in the free screenings at the Wellness Center will receive their test results in the mail along with a personalized letter. They are encouraged to share the information with their personal physician—particularly if any of the test results fall outside normal ranges. An annual wellness visit, recommended by the AVMA GHLIT, is the ideal time to discuss the test results. The results from the free screenings at the center may also help lower medical costs.

"Laboratory tests are continuously increasing in cost. This GHLIT-sponsored program helps lower claims," Dr. Brandt said. His physician told him that he would not have to repeat blood tests during his annual physical if he continued to take advantage of the free screenings at the Wellness Center.

In addition to being a convenient way for participants to monitor chronic conditions, the free health screenings have shed light on the presence of indicators for several "silent killers" such as prostate cancer and diabetes.

Since 2005, Wellness Center screenings have identified 372 individuals with above-normal glucose readings. (For the most accurate results, participants should fast for 10 to 12 hours prior to screening.) And of the 990 blood chemistry profiles and lipid tests conducted during last year's convention in Washington, D.C., 40 revealed high glucose readings (>70-125 mg/dl), an indicator of prediabetes or diabetes.

Other findings from last year's Wellness Center that prompted recommendations for medical follow-up include:

  • A total of 406 prostate-specific antigen tests were performed and 29 were in the high range (>4 ng/mL). With one in six American men at risk for prostate cancer, regular screening is important. When it is diagnosed before the onset of symptoms, 97.9 percent of men survive more than 10 years, compared with 17.6 percent of those with initial diagnosis of advanced-stage prostate cancer.

  • Results of 16 of the 748 hemoglobin tests were in the high range (>12-18 g/dL), indicating the potential for such conditions as dehydration, excess red blood cell production in bone marrow, and lung disease.

  • Eighty-one of 813 tests revealed a presence of C reactive proteins, an indicator of inflammation in the blood. Scientific studies suggest that inflammation is important in atherosclerosis, and high CRP concentrations consistently predict recurrent coronary events in patients with unstable angina and acute myocardial infarction. High CRP concentrations may also double the risk of stroke.

  • Thirty-one tests revealed high BUN/creatinine concentrations (>10-20 mg/dL), indicating possible renal malfunction or failure.

  • A total of 115 tests revealed high activities for SGOT, SGPT, GGT and/or alkaline phosphatase concentrations, indicating possible liver disorders.

  • Cholesterol concentrations were high in 429 of the 990 individuals tested and triglycerides were high in 111 tests, indicating a risk for cardiac disease.

Rabies titer testing is also provided at the Wellness Center for a nominal fee of $30 (cash or check payment only). It is an affordable way for veterinarians to adhere to recommendations to undergo testing at least every two years to ensure continuity of an immune response.

Last year, 13 of the 452 tests revealed rabies titers less than 1:5 serum dilution, indicating that those individuals should seriously consider a booster of pre-exposure vaccine.

The AVMA GHLIT urges members to be proactive about their health and invites all attendees at the AVMA Annual Convention to take a positive step by participating in the important health screenings offered at the Wellness Center.

For Dr. Brandt and his wife, health screenings at the Wellness Center are now part of their standard routine during the convention.

"It is definitely an accurate screen, and we will continue to take advantage of the opportunity," he said. "The GHLIT is sponsoring a tremendous member benefit for the AVMA."

The Wellness Center will be located near the registration area, just outside the exhibit hall of the New Orleans Morial Convention Center. The hours will be as follows: July 19: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; July 20, 21: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; July 22: 7 a.m. to noon.