Are You a Safe Shoveler?

31 01 2011

When the snow falls you see lots of news coverage of the white stuff. In fact, it’s not supposed to snow here again until Tuesday but it is already the focus of every newscast and one local school system has cancelled all classes. There are stories about business closings, road conditions, accidents and even the shortage or surplus of salt, sand, shovels and snowblowers. And every year, there are also stories about death by shoveling.

We all know snow is heavy and moving it is hard work. But it needs to be done and many of us dig in without giving thought to the danger the strenuous activity can pose. That’s why Lindsey Meyers of the Avera Heart Hospital (South Dakota) tried something new last year.  Something that worked so well, it’s back!

Lindsey approached her local ABC affiliate and a local hardware chain to see if they would help her create “smart shovelers” throughout her service area. She provides medical content and experts and her partners distribute safe shoveling information throughout the months of January and February.

Special shovels were designed and highlight the potential warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack on the handles while the scoop reminds people heart attack is a medical emergency. Each Friday, a shovel is given away and their mere presence in stores is enough to capture attention and get people thinking — and talking. This year, the hardware partner is also offering an in-store drawing for a free snow blower so one lucky person can stop shoveling altogether.

This project is a great example of a low budget tactic unique enough to create a buzz. It’s also proof that there is an endless supply of new and interesting ways to tell our story — even one that gets told year, after year, and year.

And since the snow is coming to Wisconsin (and they say it’s the biggest storm in a decade), I will leave you with the warning signs of heart attack  – something we all should know but too many cannot recall:

  • chest discomfort that lasts a few minutes, or goes away and comes back
  • pain or discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • shortness of breath
  • light-headedness
  • cold sweat
  • nausea along with chest discomfort. 

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On February 29, Bryan Should’ve Died.

2 09 2010





Would that get your attention? Outdoor boards carrying this and a similar message went up throughout the Sioux Falls region last week. Today the meaning was finally revealed during media interviews under one of the boards by local stations KELO and KSFY. It was all for the launch of, a landing page designed to help Avera create awareness of the emergency and trauma services it provides throughout the region. In the morning, the reveals will go up — boards that route viewers to a landing page where they can read the story of Bryan and several other individuals who faced death and survived as a result of the medical care provided at an Avera facility.

The campaign which includes both public service and promotional messaging and also includes print and banner ads, was designed to get people thinking about medical emergencies. Often families have a tornado or fire plan but have never discussed what to do in the case of an auto accident or other unforeseen incident. We want people have emergency health plans, to know they should never be embarrassed to call 911 and to acquaint themselves with their nearest Emergency Department.

 The August issue of the Journal of American College of Surgeons reveals cracks in the U.S. trauma system.  An article cites trauma as the leading cause of death of people under 45 in our country and states many regions do not offer adequate trauma services. A combination of a shortage of surgeons and gaps in coverage hinder access to timely, appropriate care. That’s exactly why Avera works to ensure high quality emergency care is available throughout the region. The health system offers emergency care at 27 locations and has eEmergency care available in 14 communities, bringing trauma and emergency medicine consult to areas without 24/7 access to a physician. tells the stories of real people from throughout the region whose lives could have changed dramatically if emergency services were not available. In the case of trauma, access to timely, optimal care during the first golden hour has been proven to save lives, restore function and prevent disability, according to Dr. Brent Eastman, author of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons article. By featuring real patients, bvk and the Avera team were able to show that real emergencies are happening around us all the time and that fast action by local emergency teams can ensure that life saving medical care can be administered. We also wanted community members to have confidence in the care available locally and know outstanding emergency treatment is available throughout the region because of the efforts of Avera and its team of expert caregivers.

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Time to Change the Conversation

16 02 2010

Each year, more women die of heart disease than any other condition. It is an equal opportunity killer so why do so many individuals think of it as only a “man’s disease?”

Today, 8 million women in the US are living with heart disease. It is estimated that 435,000 of those will experience a heart attack. In fact, 267,000 women die of heart attacks each year. That’s six times as many women who die of breast cancer.

To make matters worse:

  • Women often experience symptoms a month prior to a heart attack but ignore them.
  • Women don’t experience the same symptoms as men.
  • Women wait longer than men to go to an emergency room when having a heart attack.
  • After heart attack women are less likely to receive critical therapies known to improve survival.
  • Women are twice as likely as men to die within first few weeks following a heart attack.

And the differences in treatment and survival between men and women go on and on. But why?

The gender gap has to be closed. Women need to become aware of the symptoms of heart disease, able to recognize them and be encouraged to seek treatment faster. We want women to know dinner, the laundry, even a relaxing bath can wait — their health can’t. Women are less likely to experience gripping chest pain and often have symptoms far more subtle. According to the National Institute for Health, the most common symptoms reported by women was unexplained fatigue (71 percent), sleep disturbance (48 percent) and shortness of breath (41 percent).  In fact, fewer than 30 percent reported having chest pain or discomfort prior to their heart attacks — and 43 percent reported no chest pain at all during any stage of the attack.  Then why do most doctors still consider chest pain the most important heart attack symptom in both women and men?

Avera worked with bvk to create awareness of the threat heart disease poses to women. The system’s hospitals are partnering with local restaurants, grocery and appliance stores to make a difference. The resulting marketing tactics (print and environmental) are available for other providers to use as public service announcements for a nominal license fee.

If a washer and dryer in the midst of the grocery store doesn’t stop you, or a stove in the entry of a local restaurant, they hope their messages will. And as extra enticement to stop and pick up a fact sheet with the warning signs of heart attack, Avera has added an incentive — a chance to win a new high efficiency washer and dryer or gift certificates (the offers vary based on the campaign partners and all prizes were donated).

In addition, a free online heart health assessment is being promoted to help individuals determine their risk of heart disease and take proactive steps to prevent it. And because early detection saves lives, a specially priced heart screening package is also offered by Avera Heart Hospital to identify the presence of heart-related medical conditions and allow for immediate intervention if needed.

And because we still need to reach men too, a TV spot was produced to remind men that chest pain is a medical emergency and ignoring the warning signs of a heart attack is simply ridiculous.

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