Fire Department Participates In “Helping Our Heroes” Program

Cooper physicians and staff provided critical medical exams for Pennsauken Township’s first responders as part of a joint venture between Cooper University Health Care and Camden County. Fire Department personnel received complete physicals with laboratory tests, EKG, pulmonary screening and physical assessment including body mass index by a physician.

These exams, provided last month at the Bloomfield Park Volunteer Fire Company, No. 1, were the first step in creating a global wellness campaign that will improve the health of our firefighters and emergency medical technicians.

Last year, the Freeholder Board and Cooper University Health Care announced an initiative to proactively keep the 2,800 emergency responders in Camden County healthier by identifying and combating life-threatening diseases. This public-private partnership was created to address statistics that are overwhelming and underline a significant need to improve the health of our men and women on the front-line of public safety.

Freeholder Scot McCray, liaison to the Department of Public Safety, said the program will have a direct impact on first responders.

“Every day the men and women who protect our families and homes put themselves at great risk to ensure our safety,” McCray said. “This program presents an opportunity for us to give back to our firefighters and first responders by making their overall health a priority. These men and women work under extremely stressful conditions. This is the least we can do to help these heroes.”

“The Pennsauken Fire Department is extremely grateful to Cooper University, the Camden County Board of Freeholders and the Pennsauken Township administration for their efforts in making this program available to our firefighters,” added Pennsauken Fire Chief Joseph V. Palumbo, Sr. “We’ve already seen immediate benefits from our participation in these screenings and the program has done a lot to improve the health of our members.”

Palumbo gave an example of how the program provided life-saving benefits to one Pennsauken firefighter. “A 23-year veteran of our department who participated in the health screening program was alerted to an extremely serious health issue during the EKG examination. He was transported to the hospital immediately and underwent cardiac catheter surgery after being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. If not for the health screening program, this veteran firefighter may not be with us today.”

Statistics show that cardiac disease is the number one killer among firefighters over the age of 35 and that 75 percent of all active emergency responders nationwide have been classified as hypertensive or prehypersensitive. In fact, 44 percent of all deaths by firefighters, in the line of duty, are from sudden cardiac deaths. Furthermore, obesity, which can lead to a variety of chronic diseases, affects 75 percent of emergency responders and according to the national trade publication, Fire Engineering, the incidence of obesity among firefighters surpasses the general population.

“I believe this program can be a model throughout the state in addressing a challenge and expense posed by our men and women in uniform,” said Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli, Jr. “These exams will be a tremendous benefit to our responders and ultimately to their families. At the end of the day, this exam could be the difference between life and death.”

“Day in and day out, our first responders put their lives on the line to keep our community safe. This health screening program is a wonderful way to give back to these brave men and women,” added Pennsauken Mayor Jack Killion. “Helping to maintain the health and wellness of emergency personnel is very important to all of us and we thank the Camden County Freeholder Board and Cooper University Health Care for developing this program.”

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