April 9, 2024

Denver Fire Department annual blood work screenings triple

It’s easy to put off recommended health screenings, and sometimes even firefighters postpone looking after themselves.

Felipe Hernandez, MD, worked with Denver firefighters during a screening event at Station 26 in January 2023.

In an effort to boost participation in health screenings, the Denver Fire Department in 2021 piloted its DFD Wellness Screening Program. This program provides ongoing resources for fitness, mental health, and the recommended annual physical screenings for firefighters.

Recommended screenings included those specific to the risk associated with being a first responder, such as screenings for urinary tract cancers, hepatitis C, HIV, and heavy metals exposures, as well as routine screenings for diabetes (an A1C test), lipids, kidney function, liver function, and complete blood count. Additionally, men over 50 were offered prostate cancer screening.

Despite being able to go to any Kaiser Permanente lab location for the recommended screenings during their shift, firefighter screening for the recommended annual blood work hovered around 22% participation prior to the DFD Wellness Screening Program.

With a 53-year, one-on-one relationship, Kaiser Permanente in Colorado and Denver Fire knew they could improve this statistic by working together. Staff from Kaiser Permanente lab, care delivery, physician ambassadors, workforce health and sales, along with DFD and members of Denver Firefighters Local 858 brainstormed ways to increase the number of firefighters getting this screening. They just had to find a way to make it even easier for firefighters working long shifts to get their blood drawn. Denver Fire proposed on-site clinics and Kaiser Permanente in Colorado agreed to bring lab and clinical staff to the firefighters and offer on-site events.

Kaiser Permanente offered 4 on-site clinical events in 2023, each lasting 3 days. The events covered all of Denver Fire’s districts and shifts. Kaiser Permanente lab staff, medical assistants, workforce health consultants, and physician ambassador Felipe Hernandez, MD, spent the day at Denver Fire locations and performed hundreds of blood draws. Firefighters from stations in the same district covered for one another so they all had a chance to participate while on shift. In addition to the blood draws, Kaiser Permanente staff conducted blood pressure tests, weight checks, and urinalysis screenings.

As a result, more than 662 Denver firefighters (nearly 60% of the firefighter workforce in Denver) completed their annual blood work and screenings in 2023, approximately 40% of which were from the on-site events. The events helped to triple the number of firefighters screened.

Thanks to Kaiser Permanente’s willingness to work with the department and Local 858 to make screening convenient, we are better able to take care of our staff.

"Firefighters face all kinds of dangers on the job, and the stress can take a major toll on our health. Thanks to Kaiser Permanente's willingness to work with the department and Local 858 to make screening convenient, we are better able to take care of our staff," said Eric Tade, an assistant chief with the Denver Fire Department. “We plan on growing the collaboration in 2024 and look forward to its continued success.”

“The work firefighters do is extremely important to our communities. I feel proud that Kaiser Permanente is making it easier for the people keeping our communities safe to get the screenings they need to stay healthy,” said Felipe Hernandez, MD, physician ambassador. “With the involvement of so many teams across Kaiser Permanente, the on-site events allowed us to engage these members in meaningful, personalized discussions about chronic disease prevention.”

The first on-site events for 2024 occurred in mid-January and more are being scheduled.