Mall Walkers Take a Break
to Learn About Good Health
arly every morning, in summer or winter, in rain or snow, more than 100 exercise enthusiasts lace up their sneakers and take to the halls of the Westfarms Mall in Farmington for quiet, vigorous walks before the shops open.
Starting this fall, the Westfarms "mall walkers" will also get a chance to learn about timely health topics, through a new program with the UConn Health Center.
On Sept. 12, Kristen Zarfos, an assistant professor of surgery and chair of the women's health initiative, kicked off the Health Center's fall lecture series with a presentation about the early detection and prevention of breast cancer. More than 50 walkers attended the breakfast program.
Later this fall, presentations about osteoporosis will be made by Drs. Jo-Anne Smith and Pamela Taxel, and Dr. Peter Albertsen will give a presentation about new trends in prostate cancer treatment.
"We decided to reach out to the mall walkers because of their obvious interest in health and their close proximity to the Health Center," explains Jim Walter, associate vice president for communications. Walter's staff also coordinate the ongoing Discovery Series lecture program and the Health Center's Speakers Bureau. "We are always looking for innovative, new ways to educate the public about the range of services at the Health Center," he adds.
Walter says the initiative received support and hospitality from the Westfarms management. Westfarms is a regional shopping center and part of the Taubman Corporation. It is about a 10-minute drive from the Health Center and attracts more than 26,000 visitors each day.
In addition to hosting the fall lecture series, Westfarms has agreed to provide free copies of UConn's health newsletter, House Call, to customers. Copies of House Call can be found in the newly renovated center-court, near the coffee bar, and in other rest areas.
"UConn is right in your backyard. We're here to provide information, education and health care services to you," said Dr. Zarfos during her presentation about breast cancer.
Zarfos told the audience the Health Center is participating in a far reaching, national study -- the STAR trial -- comparing two drugs, Tamoxifen and Raloxifene, believed to have the potential to prevent breast cancer in post-menopausal women at increased risk for the disease. Susan Walters, a research nurse at the Health Center, also gave out specific information about the STAR trial and helped women determine their eligibility for the study.
Zarfos also stressed the importance of sound nutrition and steady exercise. She said studies have shown possible links between healthful diets, regular exercise, and reduced breast cancer risk.
"There are some risk factors we can control, and some we can't control. The good news is that studies suggest that exercising just four hours a week can decrease a woman's risk of developing breast cancer by 37 percent," she said.
"I'm sure this is good news to you since you already have made exercise a part of your lives," she added.
She said women need to remember the three "components of early detection." These are: annual clinical breast exams by a medical professional; monthly self-exams; and annual mammograms after age 40.