“Anna Ruzic and I first demonstrated the program at last year’s AFAC conference and it got such a great response that they asked us to come back again this year,” Health Wellbeing Officer Peter Langridge said.
“We had a lot of interest from the other agencies, word got around quickly and people really flocked to the stand. The Fire and Emergency Services Authority of Western Australia also had a doctor on the stand providing skin cancer checks.
“Our tests are based on cardiovascular risk and we look at lifestyle and diet. We also run fingerprick tests to do blood analysis on the spot – we look at cholesterol, sugar fat and glucose levels. The majority of the people we tested at the conference came in at low to medium risk – probably due to the audience.
“Everyone walks away with a printed report of their likelihood of cardiovascular disease and likelihood of a heart attack occurring in the future. They also get a folder with health information sheets to help them change their lifestyle to reduce their risk.”
The Healthwatch program is already extremely popular with CFA volunteers.
“We’ve had over 7,500 volunteers go through the system and many of them come back for annual check-ups. We recently conducted sessions with Westbury (D10), Greenvale, Wattleglen and Wyndhamvale (D14) and Cobram (D18),” Peter said.
“We’re flat out for the rest of the year and are just about to visit Modewarre (D7), Hampton Park (D8), Kallista–The Patch (D13), Diggers Rest and Toolernvale (D14) and Avoca (D16).
“If CFA brigades would like to book a Healthwatch session they can ring us on 9262 8843 or visit the Healthwatch website (esvhealthwatch.vic.gov.au), which is just about to clock up 920,000 hits.”
Peter was also asked by AFAC to present his work measuring heat stress in firefighters to the research forum.
“It went down really well − lots of people from other agencies spoke to me afterwards about joining our research. I even had a geologist approach me for more information that could benefit the mining sector.
“While these research trials are being done in every state, everyone has different data. My goal was to encourage all the fire services to pool their data so that we can come up with some consistent national guidelines and we’ve managed to get five states on board.”