Changes in how health care is delivered has prompted the Deborah Heart and Lung Center to go out into the community and offer free screening services to Burlington County veterans.
Using a $50,000 grant from the New Jersey Department Of Health's Division of Health and Family Services, the nonprofit township hospital is gearing up to provide dozens of veterans screenings for cardiovascular disease and for pulmonary and lung disease at the Medford VFW Post 7677 at 317 Church Road on Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon.
No registration or appointments are necessary.
It's the first Veterans Outreach Screening program planned this year. The program is one way to better serve the county's veteran population, said Dr. William Hirsch, chairman of cardiology at Deborah.
Because the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has seen an increase in veteran outpatient visits by 29 million patients from 2007 to 2013 nationwide, Hirsch said there's a growing need for universal health care to be available to veterans of all ages outside of VA facilities.
He said the outreach is a "different way of caring for veterans."
"Going to the VA has been their only avenue to getting care, and based on some of the barriers that we all have seen to getting health care," expanding what's offered to veterans is the best option, Hirsch said.
Burlington County is home to more than 35,000 veterans, which is the third-largest population in the state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Heart disease is not only the leading cause of death in the United States, but it's also common among active-duty military members and the aging veteran population.
Veterans generally have a greater risk of high blood pressure that can lead to cardiovascular complications, Hirsch said.
According to a report released by the U.S. Veterans Health Administration and the Department of Defense, a 2008 study showed that more than 37 percent of veterans also experienced high blood pressure, "making it the most common chronic medical condition among veterans," the report states.
Those who rank more than 10 percent in a cardiovascular disease risk assessment fall in the intermediate- to high-risk category to experience a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years. Those with diabetes automatically are put at 20 percent, Hirsch said.
He said the sooner veterans are screened and treated, the less likely a cardiovascular condition turns deadly.
A representative from Deborah said the hope is to screen 250 veterans and their families by the end of the year.