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An interview with Brandon Health Checks Steering Committee Chair, Meryl Orth


Targeting Isolation asked Meryl Orth, Chair, Health Checks Steering Committee,

about Health Checks. Here is what Meryl had to say…



--> Health Checks is a grassroots community committee that organizes an annual Health Checks (Health Expo) event and maintains a website. It is officially called: Health Checks: There’s a whole lot of Living Left to do!”


--> Health Checks was recently showcased as part of the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing which is focused on improving older adults’ lives.

 

"The idea was to provide an opportunity for older adults to be screened, for example, for their hearing, to identify and prevent health difficulties that could reduce their quality of life or their ability to live independently in the community."

"We have tried to develop a “hub” for people where they can come to one place and learn about all different kinds of services and programs in their community to help reduce isolation and loneliness."  

Targeting Isolation in Manitoba (TIMA): Please introduce yourself and tell me a bit about Health Checks.

 

Meryl Orth: My name is Meryl Orth and I am the chair of the Health Checks steering committee. Health Checks is a grassroots community committee consisting of nonprofits from both the provincial and local level, Prairie Mountain Health and is an intergenerational committee. The committee aims to create a day-long drop-in event where older adults and their families feel confident to seek out and ask about information that they need or to speak about the barriers they face. In this committee we have numerous different professional consultants that are both actively working in their professions or retired professionals. Health Checks facilitates an age-friendly environment that fosters the well-being of older adults and their family through providing timely, local, accurate, and relevant resources and information.

 

Health Checks also maintains a website that contains information for older adults living in Brandon and the surrounding areas. In the past couple of years, Health Checks has also joined in a partnership with WCG TV and their long running program “Conversations on Aging” hosted by Johanna Leseho.

 

"Health Checks facilitates an age-friendly environment that fosters the well-being of older adults and their family through providing timely, local, accurate, and relevant resources and information."

TIMA: How did you come up with the idea of Health Checks?

 

Meryl Orth: In 1999, another educator and myself collaborated with an audiologist and a speech language pathologist to develop a day to screen for speech, language, hearing, vision, dental and general development in 3- & 4-year-old children. The idea was to prevent problems before they impacted children’s education and learning. I was co-chair and the day was called Project Milestones. The community saw a need and came out in large numbers. This program ran up until COVID and has restarted again.

 

As an older adult myself, and as a person trying to navigate the healthcare system as a patient and a caregiver, I saw the need of duplicating the same prevention, education and intervention efforts we had done for young children, to older adults. The idea was to provide an opportunity for older adults to be screened, for example, for their hearing, to identify and prevent health difficulties that could reduce their quality of life or their ability to live independently in the community.

 

Health Checks started through conversations and discussions I had with various people and organizations interested in helping older adults. The steering committee began in 2019 and we held our first Health Checks event at the Victoria Inn in Brandon. Since that time we have held an annual Health Checks event every Fall.  During Covid we held virtual events for 2 years and the last 2 in-person events were held at Brandon University’s Healthy Living Centre.


"You never know, but you hope that it makes a difference for people— even just one person!"

TIMA: What can people expect at a Health Checks event?

 

Meryl Orth: The Health Checks event is unique in bringing together speakers, displays such as information booths, demonstrations, as well as professionals who can directly screen and support older adults. Education and Prevention are key: we aim to provide people with information as well as an opportunity to get direct support from professionals, and all in one place. You never know, but you hope that it makes a difference for people— even just one person!

 

We have had speakers and displays on a variety of topics including: mental and physical health, social and financial health, nutrition and fitness, and much more. Some of the different display booths at the 2023 Health Checks event included: an active transportation demonstration; protecting yourself from frauds and scams; a speaker from Canada Revenue Agency (disability tax credit, caregiver credit, medical expenses, etc.); Manitoba 55 plus games; Alzheimer’s Society; Mood Disorder Association of Manitoba; The Friendship Center; Seniors for Seniors; Westman Immigrant Services, Sexuality Education Resource Centre (SERC) and many more…

 

As mentioned, a unique part of Health Checks is that it also provides opportunities for people to check in with and ask questions from professionals. For example, one of the most popular booths is the Police, Fire and Paramedics where people can ask about any issues on safety or services provided. This past year we had a hearing check; falls prevention screen, respiratory screen, dental screen, student nurses doing blood pressure checks and the diabetic CANRISK screen; and nutritional advice with a dietitian. We also had pharmacists available to do medication reviews with people.

 

We have tried to develop a “hub” for people where they can come to one place and learn about all different kinds of services and programs in their community to help reduce isolation and loneliness. We have heard from community members that they appreciate having information available all in one place on government, health and community services, activities, programs and supports.

 

For more information:

 

Visit Health Checks at:

 

Brandon Sun News article on Health Checks (Dec 2023):

 

United Nation’s Decade of Healthy Ageing.

For more information visit https://bitly.ws/385xd

 

 

 

 

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