Series Targets Family Health

Programs that benefit families also benefit the community at large.


And in 2002, the Health Programs Department at Health New England, the Springfield-based health plan, saw a need for more proactive services in the community. From that idea was born the Healthy Family Seminar Series, now in its third year of dispensing valuable medical advice.

“One of Health New England’s goals is to increase participation in health examinations and child vaccinations,” said Connie Lynch, disease management program coordinator in the department. “The idea for the seminars came from the entire Health Programs Department in general.”

The series consists of four seminars per year, each exploring a different aspect of family health. It is topped off by the Women’s Night Out! health fair in October that draws as many as 500 participants.

“Everyone is welcome,” Lynch noted. “These events are definitely not for Health New England customers only. Health New England is committed to providing for the health care needs of our members and improving the quality of life and health status of our communities.”

All of the seminars take place at the Best Western Hotel and Conference Center at 1080 Riverdale Road in West Springfield and follow a set format, Lynch said.
“The seminars are a panel discussion by two or three experts,” she explained. “Afterward, there is a question-and-answer period. They run about two hours.”
The fair is held in several rooms at the Best Western, she continued. In the main ballroom are displays by various health-related organizations, while a couple of side rooms serve as speakers’ rooms. This is a somewhat longer event as well, running about four hours.

The first seminar, on children’s eating habits, was held in March.

The next seminar, “Menopause Revisited,” will take place Wednesday, May 26, from 6 to 8 p.m. Nationally known authors and menopause experts Carol Landau, Ph.D., Michelle Cyr, M.D., and Anne Moulton, M.D., of the Brown University School of Medicine, will discuss new perspectives on menopause. They will discuss the results of recent research that has caused medical experts to reconsider the ‘old wisdom’ about menopause, hormone replacement, and the risk of heart disease and other health conditions.

Last November, Landau and Cyr, both internists who specialize in women’s health, released a book, The New Truth About Menopause: Straight Talk About Treatments and Choices from Two Leading Women Doctors. In it, they discuss exercise; hot flashes; the benefits and risks of hormone replacement therapy; the connections between menopause, stroke, breast cancer, and heart disease; the ‘calling card’ of perimenopause; as well as exercise and hot flashes.

Their collaboration with Moulton, a clinical psychologist, includes the publication in 1995 of The Complete Book of Menopause: Every Woman’s Guide to Good Health. Besides being nationally known lecturers, the three co-founded the Women’s Health Associates practice in Rhode Island.

After taking the summer off, the series will return on Sept. 30, again beginning at 6 p.m., for a discussion titled “Osteoporosis Update.” It will be led by Mary Pat Roy, M.D., and nurse practitioner Jessica Tropp.

Both Roy and Tropp are experts in the care and treatment of people with osteoporosis and have developed health programs to both prevent and treat the disease. They will discuss recent developments in prevention and treatment from medication to nutrition.

Participants will learn the most effective ways of preventing the disease, including information on diet and calcium absorption. Also discussed will be how calcium supplements and dairy products affect bone growth and strength, as well as ways to strengthen bones and prevent fractures and falls.

While osteoporosis is often thought of as a women’s disease, Lynch noted that it afflicts men as well. “These seminars are for everyone,” she said.

The fourth and final event of the series each year is the Women’s Night Out! health fair scheduled for Oct. 14 from 5 to 9 p.m. While reservations in advance are suggested for all seminars, they are particularly important for this very popular evening. “The first year, we had to turn 100 women away at the door,” Lynch told The Healthcare News.

How does the Health Programs Department decide what topics to schedule? Participant input is the key. “We get our suggestions from the evaluation forms that are filled out after every seminar,” Lynch said. “That way, we learn what is important to the people who attend, and we can schedule seminars that are of the greatest interest.”

A small fee ($10 for HNE members, $15 for non-members for all events, including the women’s fair) is charged to cover the cost of the speakers and the facilities. The health plan does not make a profit from the seminar.

For further information, contact the Health Programs Department at Health New England by calling (413) 787-4000, ext. 3300. This will lead to a voice mail line where interested parties can leave their name, address, and phone number so a representative can contact them.