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NASCAR fans are offered free health screening

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A NASCAR fan saves time by filling out a survey form as he waits in line for a free health screening at the GlaxoSmithKline facility yesterday at Michigan International Speedway.

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BROOKLYN, Mich. - Tucked in the middle of the massive rodeo of merchandise trailers and sponsor exhibits lined up behind the grandstands at Michigan International Speedway is a wide blue-and-gold unit that is not selling a thing. No T-shirts, no jackets, and no ball caps.

This is the largest mobile health-screening unit ever developed, and it is staffed with 19 nurses and technicians and three physicians, and is paid for by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, which sponsors Bobby Labonte's No. 18 car for a portion of the Nextel Cup season.

The double-wide trailer follows the Cup circuit in an effort to increase awareness of health issues, and assemble a profile of the huge fan base.

"For 25 percent of the people who come through here - this is the only interaction they have with a health care professional," said Norm Tinnell, who runs the screening facility for Glaxo-

SmithKline.

Tinnell said the center offers more than $1,000 in free screenings to each person for asthma, osteoporosis, diabetes and blood pressure problems.

"We find a lot of people who are at risk and don't know it," Tinnell said before the start of yesterday's GFS Marketplace 400 at MIS.

On most weekends, the screening unit will see about 1,500 people, and send five or six directly to the medical center, most with dangerously high blood pressure. At Bristol earlier this season, emergency medical personnel had to be summoned to the screening center when one man's blood pressure was so high that he risked an immediate heart attack or stroke.

Each person entering the mobile facility completes a medical background survey and demographic profile and the information is stored on a magnetic strip card. As they move from station to station for the testing, the card stores the results, and the individual receives a print-out at the end of the 20-minute session. They also have the opportunity to discuss the results with a physician.

"GlaxoSmithKline looks at this as a way to give back to the community," Tinnell said. "They want to get aggregate data on how many people smoke, how many have a history of diabetes in their families, and you need a large number of people to get that kind of data."

Since the NASCAR crowds are predominantly white, the screening unit also works at Black Expo in Indianapolis and at Unity Day in Philadelphia to balance the data.

The screening unit was

expanded after working at eight tracks in 2003. It will make 19 stops this season, and has already screened about 15,000 race fans.

"Each race weekend, at least 100 people will tell me this is the greatest thing they've seen at NASCAR races," Tinnell said. "Some of them you have to coax a little, because they come here to watch the race and have a good time, and the last thing they think about is getting a health screening. Some admit they don't want to know, but they understand the benefit."

Two hours before race time yesterday, more than 50 fans were in line at the screening facility.

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