Phoebe to host conference

ALBANY, Ga. -- Women, in most households, are known as the "gatekeepers of health" -- which can sometimes result in them taking care of others while making their own well-being less of a priority.

On Saturday, there is an event set to help them get back on track. A women's health conference will be held at Phoebe HealthWorks from 8 a.m.-2 p.m.

The theme for the conference, which is now in its seventh year, is "Live Healthy So You Can Live Longer."

"I think that is so appropriate for women," said Darrell Sabbs, community benefits coordinator at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. "When women come together to celebrate a health event, the feel is almost spiritual.

"Women spend so much time taking care if everyone else that taking care of themselves (becomes less of a priority). Their role is so fundamentally important to households and communities."

The event will feature free screenings for cholesterol, diabetes, blood pressure, height and weight, osteoporosis and body mass index. There will also be informational booths, a cancer survivor recognition, complimentary meals and door prizes.

Workshops will be conducted on breast health, diabetes education and colon cancer awareness. The scheduled guest speaker is Ruthie Garner from WALB-TV.

"Our population, our community needs to have education; the more we educate, the more informed they (residents) are," said Linda Van Der Merwe, vice president of oncology services at Phoebe. "We feel it's our responsibility to do that."

About 500-600 women are expected at Saturday's event from breast cancer survivors to family members and caregivers to those just wanting to make their lives healthier.

"When you mix that together, it's a big statement of love," said Sabbs. "There is something special in the air when women come together. It's not business as usual.

"Women come with a real desire to learn and find out what they should be doing better."

The event is traditionally held in October in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which reflects a topic that is a big deal both locally and nationally.

Screening rates for breast cancer have declined in recent months, which Van Der Merwe attributes to confusion regarding the appropriate timing of mammograms.

"When women only have a mammogram every few years, there is the possibility of finding larger masses (when they do get screened," she said. "We are very concerned about it (the declining rates)."

More than 192,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be found this year, the American Cancer Society says.

For the screenings being conducted at the conference, participants are required to fast after midnight the day of the event.

Phoebe HealthWorks is located at 311 Third Avenue. The event is free and open to the public.