The Traveling Doc!

Delaware County’s Senior Medical Advisor
 dispenses dose of health education from IBC Wellness Van

Delaware County’s Senior Medical Advisor will literally be making rounds to various communities in a giant, colorful Wellness van, delivering a healthy dose of preventive health care information to residents.

Dr. George Avetian and Delaware County Council are partnering with Independence Blue Cross to launch a Wellness on Wheels initiative where he will visit libraries, senior centers and other community facilities to present information on a wide variety of public health topics.

 Called “Ask the Doctor,” the program is part of the county’s overall effort to educate residents about various public health issues from vaccinations to healthy lifestyles.

What do my cholesterol numbers mean?

Are there natural ways to reduce high blood pressure?

What does it mean to be “pre-diabetic?”

Those are just a few of the most commonly asked medical questions when people talk to a medical expert. The popularity of TV shows such as “Dr. Oz” shows that people have many medical questions that aren’t medical emergencies, but they welcome the opportunity to pose them to a medical expert.

Dr. Avetian said he can discuss a specific topic chosen by the group, or he can answer questions people have about topics from West Nile Virus and Lyme disease to stroke prevention and flu vaccinations.

The eye-catching Wellness van is 31 feet long, about the size of a SEPTA bus. It drew attention while parked outside of the Media Courthouse for the Sept. 26 launch of “Ask the Doctor.”

Inside the van is a wealth of information on health issues, plus interactive technology that lets people access on-line health tools and healthy lifestyle programs.

The Independence Blue Cross (IBC) van is being made available to County Council and Dr. Avetian through a partnership with IBC.

“This is just one more way that we are reaching out to our residents to foster good public health,” said Delaware County Councilwoman Colleen Morrone, Council’s liaison to the County Department of Intercommunity Health. “Dr. Avetian will travel to local communities to help people understand their health care needs. Delaware County is literally bringing the doctor to the residents. It also gives us a chance to get people’s feedback and to hear what their public health concerns are.”

“People are sure to notice this huge, colorful van and we hope that people’s fun and interactive experience with the van and Dr. Avetian will serve as a reminder to pay attention to their health,” Mrs. Morrone said.
Dr. Avetian said the initial “Ask the Doctor” tour is focusing on health education. People will also have an opportunity to tour the fan. His first visits are scheduled as follows; residents throughout the area are invited to attend:

  • Oct. 24, 10-noon, Community Center of Darby Township, 1085 Hook Road, Sharon Hill
  • Oct. 26, 10:30-noon, Stinson Towers, 1501 Arbor Dr., Chester
  • Oct. 28, noon-2 p.m., Briarcliffe Athletic Association fieldhouse, 110 N. Bartram Ave., Glenolden
  • Oct. 31, noon-2 p.m., Upper Darby Senior Center, 3326 Watkins Ave., Upper Darby

“I can discuss any health care concern that people might have. For example, the residents at Stinson Towers asked that I talk about stroke and heart disease prevention,” Dr. Avetian said. “One issue I see is that people need to be better prepared when they go to visit their doctor. In the medical community, we are trying to improve people’s health literacy, which is their understanding of their medication, the doctor’s instructions, their medical insurance or their test results.”

He said that people need to prepare for each doctor’s visit with a list of questions, medications, tests, follow-up instructions and other important information.

He stressed that a visit to the Wellness van is not a substitute for a visit to their primary physician or health center. In fact, there have been situations when the Wellness van staff members have advised people to immediately see their physician.

“We want to reach out to people, to help them navigate the healthcare system and to encourage them to take the necessary steps to protect and improve their health,” Dr. Avetian said. “The van is a moving health exhibit, one that is interactive, that provides a fun experience for people. While it’s visual and entertaining, it also comes with an important message. We want people to be better educated about their health needs and overall public health issues.”

“This really gives new meaning to the term ‘house call,’” Dr. Avetian added.

The IBC Wellness van was launched in 2005 and has since visited hundreds of workplaces, community centers and neighborhoods.

“We’re excited to partner with Delaware County Council to help educate people about important health risks and prevention,” said Kim Eberbach, vice president, Wellness and Community Health for IBC. “The IBC Wellness van, which visits about 70 sites every year, has been a very successful way for us to meet directly with our customers and the community where they live and work. We’re happy it’s a key part of the innovative ‘Ask the Doctor’ program.”

Community groups interested in having a visit from Dr. Avetian and the Wellness van can contact the County Department of Intercommunity Health at 610-891-5311.

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