Korean Medical Program draws 1,500 to Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck

The Record
Kyung Hee Choi, vice president of the The Korean Medical Program at Holy Name Medical Center, center left, and Medical Director Hee K. Yang talk with medical students at the seventh annual Health Festival.
Special to The Record/ Jennifer Brown
Kyung Hee Choi, vice president of the The Korean Medical Program at Holy Name Medical Center, center left, and Medical Director Hee K. Yang talk with medical students at the seventh annual Health Festival.

September isn’t Korean-American Health Month.

But in North Jersey, a free annual series of health fairs held during the month has become a lifeline for community members who can’t afford the battery of tests and exams needed to determine one’s state of health.

Saturday marked the seventh year that the Korean Medical Program at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck hosted its health festival. It drew more than 1,500 Korean-Americans, who were seen by nearly 80 Korean-speaking physicians from the tri-state area.

Not only do health outlooks improve for the participants, the information collected is helping physicians transform their triage approach to community-specific preventative care, said Hee Yang, the medical director for Holy Name’s Korean Medical Program.

“This is better than your annual check-up,” Yang said. “The turnout is evidence of the necessity, and now we have access to data that we didn’t have before.”

Fifteen technicians in Holy Name’s laboratory processed blood samples given at the hospital by more than 1,000 participants on Sept. 13 and 14. The blood was tested for 35 markers, including those that indicate hypertension, diabetes and hepatitis B — all conditions that have increased in prevalence among Korean-Americans, Yang said.

When they arrived on Saturday, participants received the test results and had the opportunity to consult with physicians in more than two dozen specialties.

Participants also underwent screenings for breast and prostate cancers, as well as exams for their eyes, teeth and feet. Several attendees said they sought the festival because they were uninsured or underinsured.

“Financially, I’m able to manage my health” at this fair, said Deug Woo Lee, a 78-year-old Palisades Park resident who is uninsured and has participated in all seven years of the festival.

His wife, who recently underwent surgery for early stage colorectal cancer, discovered an abnormality at last year’s festival. She is doing well, Lee said.

“The Korean Medical Program is so good and there is nothing like it on this scale” in Korea, he said.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Asian population in the 10 states where they are most concentrated experienced substantial growth between 2000 and 2010. In New Jersey, where the growth was 52 percent, the population was more than 93,000 in 2010. At last count, there were slightly more than 59,000 Korean-Americans in Bergen and Passaic counties.

That could explain why dozens of health festival participants were lined up outside of the Holy Name conference center at 6 a.m. on Saturday, said Kyung Hee Cho, vice president of Holy Name’s Korean Medical Program.

The 500 flu vaccinations available to participants were administered on a first-come, first-served basis.

First-time attendee Sun Hee Kim, 60, drove an hour from Monroe Township on Saturday to attend the fair. While she and her husband are enrolled in a $300-per-month health plan that covers medical catastrophes, they are without an insurance plan that covers preventative care and annual checkups.

“It’s very difficult to be insured,” Kim said as she sat down for a blood-pressure reading. A technician removed the pressure cuff from her arm and gave her a thumbs-up.

“It feels good,” she said. “It’s a very good program. I like it very much.”

Email: morrison@northjersey.com

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