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  April 28, 2003

Women's Health Program Benefits Many

No more baby steps. At its first birthday, the Health Center's "Celebrate Women" program is taking flight.

Image: Celebrate Women

In 12 months, nearly 5,000 women have joined Celebrate Women - a free membership program that provides timely health information through a quarterly newsletter and a diverse series of seminars and special events. Members also receive discounts at several local businesses, including fitness clubs, restaurants, and boutiques.

"Our overall goal is to improve the health of Connecticut women by providing up-to-date, valuable health information," explains Diane Bennett, the director.

When Celebrate Women was launched last May, Bennett set her sights on attracting 2,500 members in the first year.

"I really thought it was a stretch to reach for 2,500 members in the first year," she says. Bennett attributes the success of the program to the tremendous interest in women's health issues in the community.

"The need was there. Women have welcomed this program with open arms," she says.

Women also appreciate the personalized approach of the Celebrate Women program, she adds. For example, Bennett and her associate Maggie Czyrko speak with almost every new member face to face, other than those who join via the website.

Most of the program's members are between the ages of 35 and 65 and come from towns surrounding the Health Center's Farmington campus. There are nearly 1,200 women from neighboring West Hartford, and the towns of Farmington, Bristol, New Britain, and Hartford each have more than 200 members. In all, the program draws members from 264 towns in Connecticut and nearby states.

Many women have joined Celebrate Women at community events. There have been 46 special Celebrate Women seminars, including presentations by Health Center faculty on the Storrs campus, at health clubs, churches, and synagogues, and even at a West Hartford shoe store that specializes in athletic wear.

Celebrate Women had its first annual conference in September 2002, and held a retreat in April 2003.

"The rich variety of programs that have been presented throughout the region reflects our determination to meet the health care information needs of Connecticut women," says Dr. Kristen Zarfos, medical director of women's specialty health services at the Health Center, who has worked closely with Bennett from the start.

Dr. Zarfos and dozens of other Health Center experts have covered a variety of timely health topics at Celebrate Women events, including the prevention of sports injuries, heart-healthy cooking, osteoporosis prevention, new developments in breast cancer detection and treatments, preparing for menopause, and skin care.

"We know women are interested in health information and we also know that time is a valuable commodity for them," says Dr. Pamela Taxel, an endocrinologist and associate professor at the Health Center, who has presented several Celebrate Women programs on the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. "That's why we've made an effort to reach out to women and offer health programs at their workplace, health clubs or community organizations." Taxel will speak at the Alumni Center in Storrs on May 29.

While Celebrate Women offers clear benefits to its members, Bennett notes that it also provides benefits to the Health Center. "Celebrate Women is an excellent tool to draw attention to the Health Center's strengths," she says, "especially in the signature areas of cancer, cardiology, and musculo-skeletal health."

Almost 70 percent of all women who joined the program in its first year are not already patients at the Health Center. That offers a wonderful opportunity, Bennett says. "Because we are offering reliable, consistent health information and building relationships, our hope is that women will feel comfortable receiving care at the Health Center - at the Charlotte Johnson Hollfelder Center for Women's Health - or at UConn's offices in West Hartford, East Hartford, or Simsbury."

Bennett says Celebrate Women will continue to reach out to more Connecticut women from all walks of life. Special emphasis will be placed on reaching seniors.

Bennett is also helping women learn more about participating in clinical trials. She includes information about studies in every edition of the program's newsletter, Celebrate News, as well as on the website.

"We are helping the Health Center fulfill its mission to provide vital health information to the community," she adds. "We take this responsibility very seriously - one member at a time."

For more information about Celebrate Women, or to join, visit the website or call 866.4.FEMALE.

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