Library checks out blood pressure kits, addresses accessibility to care

Self-monitored blood pressure kits are available for check out from the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library.

SHERIDAN — Self-monitored blood pressure kits debuted on the shelves of Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library for checkout in April, said Interim Library Director Michelle Havenga.

The kits can be checked out just like any book would, and they’re being made available at libraries all throughout the state, aiming to address hypertension, high blood pressure and access to care statewide.

The Sheridan County Public Library System joined together with the University of Wyoming’s Center on Aging to introduce the blood pressure kits. The Center on Aging works with the Wyoming Chronic Disease Prevention Program, one goal of which is to promote education and awareness on cardiovascular disease and hypertension, said Center on Aging Regional Coordinator Kara Beech.

Beech said 47% of people in the U.S. have hypertension, but only one in four of those have their hypertension under control. One-third of Wyoming adults have been told by their health care provider they have high blood pressure.

The implementation of blood pressure kits at local libraries not only addresses a statewide need for blood pressure monitoring, but it also helps to increase the accessibility of these devices for those who might be low income or otherwise unable to visit a doctor, Havenga said. Public libraries are free, non-threatening and open during evenings and weekends.

Each blood pressure kit comes with comprehensive instructions on how to use the device, ensuring an accurate reading, and plenty of information on blood pressure from the American Heart Association. Those who check out the kits can read over the provided material for a better understanding of what their blood pressure reading might mean and what some possible next steps could be.

“Our hope is really that people get to know their numbers. One of the things they talk about a lot is something called ‘white coat syndrome,’ which is going to a doctor and being a little nervous about going to the doctor so [your] blood pressure is potentially higher,” Beech said.

Because libraries are quiet, familiar and inviting, they make for a low-stress environment to test blood pressure.

Beech said several counties throughout Wyoming have already introduced blood pressure kits this year — one librarian in Albany County reported she was able to recommend a kit to an elderly patron who needed one but couldn’t afford to buy her own.

“Libraries are a great place for all sorts of resources. They don’t just have books. It’s an amazing place and I think that we remember that when we’re younger but don’t remember that when we’re older,” Beech said. “It’s a really cool place with a lot of great information and all of the librarians throughout the state have been so excited to get to share [the blood pressure kits] with their community… They really want to be the place in their community for resources, no matter what kind of resource it is.”

Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library has five blood pressure kits available for checkout. Tongue River has three, Story has two and Clearmont has two, totaling 12 blood pressure kits available for checkout throughout the Sheridan County Public Library System.