If you’re a guy, Charles Krauss wants to know how you are doing.
Not in the small-talk way we greet folks when we can’t think of anything else to say.
He wants to make sure men are staying on top of their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. He wants them to check the box for a glucose screening and have a PSA blood test for prostate cancer.
“It’s like driving your car,’’ he said. “You have different colored lights on your dashboard. You might have some yellow lights. You might have some red lights. We’re here to identify and interpret what those lights mean and when you should go to the doctor.’’
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Charles is approaching his 27th year as a community health educator with Medical Center, Navicent Health. He also serves as coordinator of the hospital’s speakers bureau, dispatching 85 professionals and experts into the community to talk about everything from mental health to World AIDS Day.
Another of his many hats is being in charge of the annual men’s health fair at Central Georgia Technical College.
This year’s health fair is on Sept. 29, four days after his 63rd birthday. Typically, between 175 and 225 men arrive between 7 and 11 a.m. for free screenings for blood pressure, hearing, weight, glucose, vision, cholesterol, PSA, pulse, strength, oxygen saturation and body fat.
There also are 30-minute seminars on cardiovascular health, prostate cancer, diabetes, stress and HIV/AIDS. Pre-registration is available (and encouraged) on the community page of navicenthealth.org or by calling 478-633-6336.
Charles is convinced the health fair not only has changed lives, it has saved lives. He has been involved with the men’s health fair since it began in 2003.
That was the same year he added another title to his name.
Prostate Cancer Survivor.
He shares his message with dozens of groups every year. September is an especially busy time. It’s Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. It’s the second-leading cause of death among men. On Sept. 9, he spoke at a local church and PSA screenings were offered.
He can talk the talk because he has walked the walk.
I first met Charles in 2014, when I began attending local meetings of the Georgia Prostate Cancer Coalition. I went to support the chapter, which was getting started, and in memory of my late father, who had prostate surgery in 1988.
Charles also has been involved with the “Men to Men” support group for prostate cancer survivors and their caregivers. The group meets the first Tuesday of every month at The Wellness Center.
He began his career as a health teacher and coach in New York. He would have been perfectly happy in the classroom and coaching for the rest of his career.
But he was blindsided by a layoff and eventually landed in Macon, working for the American Red Cross. He later was hired to do community health education at the Medical Center.
In 2003, Charles was diagnosed with prostate cancer over a 12-week period. At the time, he was 47 years old and married with children in second grade and kindergarten.
Following a biopsy, he received a call from his urologist. It was April 15 — Tax Day.
“I literally was talking (to the doctor) on a cordless phone in a broom closet while teaching CPR to staff members,’’ he said. “He said, ‘I need to see you today or tomorrow … and bring your wife.’
“It sounded serious. I had no family history (of prostate cancer). And, based on the standards of those days, I shouldn’t have been tested until I was 50.’’
When he returned to work, Charles began the initial planning to start a health fair for men.
“As a community health educator, and following my recent cancer diagnosis, the connection was clear to me, although we had been looking at ways of increasing our contact with the general public,’’ he said. “We likely would have done something for men at that time. But, following my experience, I really pushed specifically for a men’s health fair.’’
It started simple, only offering PSA screenings. More than 100 men participated the first year, when it was held at the Macon Mall.
Also, that same year, Charles was named “volunteer of the year” by the Central Georgia Chapter of the American Cancer Society.
Men can be stubborn about annual check-ups. Charles realizes sometimes the best way to reach men is by speaking to women’s groups.
“Many times, men don’t want to go to the doctor if something is wrong,’’ he said. “And they don’t want to go if something is right.’’
The challenge is to inform, educate and convince them to take advantage of the opportunity to attend the health fair.
He wants to know how they are doing.
Ed Grisamore teaches journalism at Stratford Academy in Macon and is the author of nine books. His column appears on Sundays in The Telegraph.