Criticized last year for trimming healthcare benefits for many of its part-time employees (in response to changes forced by Obamacare, the company said), Walmart plans to stage what it calls “America’s Biggest Health Fair” for consumers on Saturday afternoon at 4,400 of its US locations.
Given the hundreds of thousands of people who could show up for free blood glucose, blood pressure and vision screenings as well as product samples, Walmart anticipates that it could uncover as many as 3,000 cases of diabetes over the course of the day and 7,000 incidences of high blood pressure.
“Customer behavior is changing,” Michelle Gloeckler, executive vice president of consumables and health and wellness divisions and the US manufacturing lead for Walmart, told journalists this week, according to Drug Store News. “Customers are taking an active role in their personal health, researching things online and overall watching for ways to live better.”
More to the point, Walmart wants to be a significant part of this consumer trend, competing with other mass discounters such as Target and drugstore chains including Walgreens and Rite-Aid that are trying to ingratiate themselves with consumers as one-stop wellness centers supplying everything from suppositories to flu shots.
Walmart previously launched a program called Healthcare Begins Here, an in-store initiative designed to educate consumers on health-insurance options. It’s opening a health-insurance enrollment program beginning October 15 in conjunction with the health fair this Saturday.
Arguably, Walmart changed the health-care game significantly nearly a decade ago when it launched a program of $4 prescriptions for hundreds of generic drugs. Today, Walmart said, it is the “only retailer in the US that operates its own pharmacies, vision centers and care clinics, and provides a comprehensive assortment of preventative and wellness products” in a number of categories ranging from sporting goods to housewares. The chain also noted that it plans to expand offerings in “notable areas such as durable medical equipment, specialty prescriptions and active nutrition,” according to the company’s press release.
“We have a long history of making healthcare more affordable and accessible for our customers,” Gloeckler said in the release. Saturday’s event will extend that record.