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PepsiCo Partners with AARC for COPD Awareness

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April 10, 2013

Employee wellness is moving up the priority list at many companies, as employers realize that healthier workers are more productive workers. The AARC officially re-launched its DRIVE4COPD Adopt-a-Company campaign in April to help AARC members connect with the employers in their areas to offer COPD screening and education in the workplace. But the campaign went through a test run in late February on a pretty big stage out in Colorado, thanks to a PepsiCo manager, the Colorado Society for Respiratory Care, and some energetic students and faculty members at Pickens Technical College.

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Jerome Piccoli, RRT, CPFT, was one of several members of the Colorado Society for Respiratory Care Board of Directors who attended the Drive4COPD event at the Pepsi bottling plant.

The stars align

Kevin Kallstrom first learned about the DRIVE4COPD campaign a few years ago at the Minnesota State Fair. The sales analyst/space manager for Pepsi’s gas and convenience business strolled over to the cordoned-off area that had been set up for COPD screening and visited with some of the respiratory therapists who were there for the event. “Ever since then, I have been trying to get something together for my company,” said Kallstrom. “I think it is something that people need to pay more and more attention to as the baby boomer generation gets older and older.” The time was finally right this year, so he networked with Jason Moury, BS, RRT, the AARC’s new COPD coordinator, to bring COPD screening to a health fair being hosted for the workers and families at one of the company’s large bottling plants in Denver.

Once the event was scheduled, Moury looked for RTs in the Denver area to staff it, and Jamie Sahli, BS, RRT, AE-C, program director for the RT program at Pickens Technical College, thought it would be a great way to get her students more involved in community outreach. “The faculty feels it is important to not only give a solid scientific foundation, but also to focus on community projects that will broaden their scope of awareness into the profession,” said Salhi. Her students were already familiar with COPD screening—they had seen articles on DRIVE4COPD in AARC Times—so it wasn’t a hard sell. Since it was designed to be a learning experience for the students, Sahli turned the logistics over to the chair of the class organization, Grace Noynay.

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Students do an outstanding job

“I have always been interested in community outreach,” said Noynay, an AARC member who just graduated from the program in May. “I felt screening the workers would be a wonderful way to provide much needed education, make recommendations for those at high risk, and raise awareness of the disease process.” Noynay quickly began recruiting volunteers from among her class and was able to get commitments from about eight students, who agreed to be on hand for the day long-Pepsi health fair. Several Colorado Society for Respiratory Care board members attended the screening as well.

The students screened workers and their family members from about 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the majority of the activity centering around change of shift at the plant. Jason Moury met the students before the event kicked off to be sure they understood how to implement the five-question COPD risk screener, and also Kevin Kallstrom was there to get a firsthand look at how the AARC program would play out. He was impressed. “I thought the RT students that volunteered for this event did an outstanding job,” he said. “They were friendly, caring, outgoing…we couldn’t have asked for a better group of local RT students to help screen all of our Pepsi employees.”

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Rewarding conversations

Sahli said the COPD booth was a big hit with the Pepsi employees. “All were thrilled to receive the NASCAR DRIVE4COPD cars to give to their children and grandchildren,” she said. “We were a popular booth because we handed out paraphernalia without selling anything besides knowledge.”

For the students, perhaps the most rewarding part of the day was talking with the Pepsi employees who scored at risk for COPD on the risk screener. “The people that scored at least two received most of my attention,” explained Noynay. “I sat down with those at high risk, explaining in detail the COPD disease process and how visiting their primary care provider can help aid them with their specific diagnosis of COPD.”

Both Sahli and Noynay would recommend Adopt-a-Company to their fellow AARC members. “It gets the word out about COPD screening to a large group in a streamlined and fun manner,” said Sahli. “The questionnaire was simple to administer yet opened up quality dialogue.”

“Overall, I received positive feedback,” said Noynay. “Most workers that answered ‘yes’ to the screening process were thankful that I screened them.” She said she believes getting the chance to educate these workers on a one-on-one basis is an experience that could enhance the education of any RT student.

Several Colorado Society for Respiratory Care Board members attended the event and offered their help. “The Colorado Society for Respiratory Care (CSRC) was privileged to be a partner with the AARC in the recent Drive4COPD event held in Denver, CO,” said CSRC President Kevin Fischer, BS, RRT. He explained the Board of Directors jumped at the opportunity to support the event along with the Denver RT community. “The commitment to our community and the dedication in this initiative to help identify and diagnose individuals who have COPD is humbling. We were excited to be able to participate and look forward to an ongoing partnership in supporting a healthier community.”

Five easy questions

After the Denver event, Kevin Kallstrom began spreading the word about the AARC’s Adopt-a-Company campaign to other Pepsi bottling plants around the country, and several plants in California have since hosted events of their own. “Our team here in Denver was blown away by the AARC and DRIVE4COPD showing at our health fair,” said Kallstrom. “It was a great day!”

Jason Moury notes that getting involved in Adopt-a-Company is a great way for respiratory therapists in any community to raise awareness of COPD while at the same time letting more people know who respiratory therapists are and what they do in the health care system. “Since there are 12 million people suffering from COPD and do not know it, our involvement could help change some lives by asking five easy questions.”

Toolkit has everything you need

Respiratory therapists are encouraged to get involved in the AARC’s DRIVE4COPD Adopt-a-Company campaign. Connecting with a local company through this campaign is easy. Everything you need to contact your company and set up a screening can be found in the Adopt-a-Company Toolkit, including:

  • Template letters and emails to make initial and follow up contact with your business
  • Press releases you can customize to let your local media know you are reaching out to help raise awareness of COPD and provide free screening for people at risk
  • Newsletters and other materials about COPD and lung health you can send out to the employees at the companies you adopt
  • And of course, the five-question COPD risk screener, to use for actually screening people for the condition.

“The AARC and the COPD Foundation saw the success with the 2011 Adopt-a-Company initiative and knew that there was still more work to be done,” Moury notes. “That is why for 2013 we brought it back with the goal of screening more and driving to raise awareness.” The 2013 campaign has already generated a lot of interest from AARC members, many of whom have already started planning their adoptions.

Learn more about the awareness campaign and download the toolkit.