AVMA GHLIT to sponsor health screenings at convention

Wellness remains a top priority
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The AVMA Group Health and Life Insurance Trust will once again invite AVMA members to take advantage of the free health screenings offered in the GHLIT's Wellness Center during the AVMA Annual Convention in Minneapolis, July 16-20. AVMA members and their spouses, along with Student AVMA members and their spouses, are invited to participate.

The Wellness Center will be located outside the exhibit hall entrance to provide easy access. From July 16-18, screenings will be available from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. On July 19, the final day of exhibits, screenings will be available from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Each year, hundreds of convention attendees visit the Wellness Center for health screenings. During the 2004 convention in Philadelphia, 959 blood chemistry profiles and lipid tests were provided. Hemoglobin concentrations were determined for 248 women, and prostate-specific antigen tests were performed for 161 men. In addition, 522 attendees took advantage of the rabies titer tests performed by Kansas State University.

The hemoglobin tests are especially important for young women. Women of childbearing age are urged to consume 15 mg of iron a day, and pregnant women require twice that amount. But, according to the National Women's Health Information Center, 90 percent of women do not get enough iron, which could lead to anemia. The NWHIC says 20 percent of women of childbearing age in the United States have iron-deficiency anemia.

The PSA test, provided to men over age 40, is also valuable. Prostate cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in men. It is also one of the leading causes of death from cancer for men, second only to lung cancer. Prostate cancer is highly treatable, especially when found early. According to the American Cancer Society, if cancer is diagnosed while it is still localized, the five-year survival rate is 100 percent.

Meanwhile, the PSA test may be of particular interest to men in high-risk groups for prostate cancer, such as those of African-American descent and those with a family history of developing prostate cancer before age 70. Because the cause of prostate cancer is not known, there are no specific preventive measures. The risk may be lowered, however, by following a healthy diet designed to lower the risk of cancer in general. The diet might include less red meat and more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Foods high in lycopenes, such as tomatoes, pink grapefruit, and watermelon, may also lower the risk of many types of cancer.

In 2004, for the majority of the 959 attendees who took advantage of the health screenings, the test results fell within reference ranges. For the few whose personal test results were outside reference ranges, the screenings may have served to bring attention to a health issue that warranted additional action.

Pre-exposure vaccination can simplify therapy, in the case of rabies exposure. A rabies titer test is recommended every two years to ensure the continuity of an immune response, with booster doses of pre-exposure vaccination administered as needed. The percentage of low rabies titers has fallen each year, from a high of 22 percent in 2000 to last year's low of 3.3 percent.

The GHLIT sponsors the annual Wellness Center to reinforce the group's commitment to preventive care and health screenings. The blood chemistry and lipid tests, hemoglobin tests, and PSA tests are provided at no cost. The rabies titer tests are provided for a nominal fee of $10.

Participants receive test results in the mail with a personalized letter. If test results are outside the reference range, the individual is urged to share the results with their personal physician. If all test results are within the reference range, the individual is encouraged to share these results as well. An annual wellness visit, recommended by the GHLIT, is an ideal time to discuss the test results.

Taking charge of one's health to lead a long, healthy, and active life provides immeasurable value to a veterinarian's personal life and can foster a sense of security among staff and clients. The AVMA GHLIT looks forward to seeing veterinarians, students, and spouses at the convention.