Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

January 23, 2013

HEALTH: Digital mammography unit sets scans for Alto

Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress

ALTO —  A digital mammography mobile unit from East Texas Medical Center will be on hand 9 a.m. to noon Monday as part of the local Health For All fair in Alto.

“This is the second time for us to do it,” said Kathi Davis, an administrative assistant at the Alto Economic Development Corporation, which hosts the program at 166 Cooper Street every third Tuesday of the month. “The first time (the mobile unit came out) was in June, and we had a really good turnout, with about a dozen women (technicians) saw.”

Approximately half took advantage of a grant offered to women who qualify based on income and other factors.

“I do know several ladies who used the mobile (service in June) had never had a mammogram before, but others had insurance that covers under women's wellness (issues), so they're aware of (this service), so I guess they came because it was much easier access for them,” Davis said. “It's a great service that ETMC offers, and we're going try to have the unit at our fair every three to six months, depending upon when it's available.”

The health fairs began last March, and while “it took awhile to gain momentum – of getting people used to them being available and by spreading word of mouth – but it's really growing pretty good now,” she said. “On average, we have 20-25 people attending these events and about eight different health care providers who come out (on a rotational basis).”

Past participants have included the Longview-based Texas Health Steps, which is part of the Texas Department of Health Services and focuses on awareness of services available and preventive care to residents under 20; the Area Agency on Aging in East Texas; Dentistry for Children of Jacksonville; A Pinewoods Home Health Medical Equipment; Gold Eye Clinic of Rusk; Jordan Health Services; Beyond Fitness of Rusk; Cherokee County Emergency Management Coordinator; and the Texas Forest Service.

Cherokee County Health Executive Director Chris Taylor commended both the Alto EDC and ETMC for making health screenings available on a local level.

“Cherokee County, by land size, is over 1,000 miles, so any time you can take clinical services to people who otherwise may not have access to it, it's an easy way to improve health outcomes,” he said. “Screening services catch so much at an early stage, and they help get people to pay attention to their health and keep an eye out for early signs of disease,” he said.

And, Taylor added, because breast cancer is such a treatable condition, mobile units like that operated by ETMC “get this service to women who might not be able to get to a clinic in Tyler or Nacogdoches or even Jacksonville. It's good to see our hospitals committed to making this happen despite what budget challenges they face.”

Women interested in visiting the mobile unit can contact ETMC at 800-648-8141 to schedule a mammogram. Medicare, Medicaid and commercial insurance is accepted, with cash discounts granted to those without insurance or who don't qualify for the grant.