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Health improvements target of programs

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Martinsville Henry County Coalition for Health and Wellness is working to increase access to health care and provide programs promoting good nutrition, physical activity and other healthful living, according to Kayla Craddock, community health coordinator for the coalition.

“By operating Bassett Family Practice, a federally qualified health center, we can see people with or without insurance,” on a sliding scale based on income, Craddock said.

Recently, a new family physician was added, Dr. Kwamba Nkembe. The clinic now has three family doctors and two nurse practitioners, Craddock said.

Coalition for Health and Wellness Executive Director Barbara Jackman said in an interview earlier this year that Bassett Family Practice had almost 3,300 patients, about two-thirds of whom had some financial hardship, such as no insurance or high deductibles.

The coalition’s six-week, self-management diabetes program is designed to help individuals who have been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes know how to manage their blood sugar through diet, exercise and possibly medication, according to the coalition’s website and Craddock.

The coalition’s childhood obesity program called Shapedown teaches families about such things as nutrition, exercise, communication, self-esteem and stress management, Craddock said.

Through a message called a Healthy ZIP code (95210), the coalition recommends children get nine hours of sleep every night; eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day; have no more than two hours of a screen time (computer, TV or game system) each day; get one hour of physical activity every day; and drink zero sugary beverages. The coalition and partners are — or will be — promoting the message in a variety of ways, including activities and distributing information, Craddock said.

Coalition staff and after-school workers with the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, Martinsville-Henry County After 3, the Upward Bound program and Smart Beginnings have been trained to lead a fitness and exercise program that has been found to reduce obesity in youths, Craddock said.

In another program, the coalition’s early childhood coach reads books to children and has activities promoting good nutrition, such as watching portion sizes and eating fruits and vegetables, and physical activity.

The coalition also has a free aerobics program at a number of sites throughout the county.

Nancy Cox, now the director of programs for the Harvest Foundation, said there has been only one evaluation of the coalition: an evaluation of the coalition’s first five years that was presented in 2010. A Harvest news release at the time said: “Over the past year, three national experts in rural health and lifestyle change evaluated the coalition and Activate Martinsville-Henry County (under the umbrella of the coalition). Their findings were quite impressive, highlighting the tremendous growth of the coalition both in services offered and number of people served.”

The 2010 release said 2,122 residents of Martinsville and Henry County had attended a variety of aerobics classes each week, hosted throughout the community (such as Step Combo, Zumba, Drums Alive and indoor/outdoor water aerobics).

“Results show that all who participate and commit to the program benefit,” it stated. It added that 781 people had attended the diabetes education program, “with an astounding success rate of being better able to manage their diabetes through blood glucose monitoring, diet and exercise.”

Some of that exercise may come through Activate Martinsville-Henry County, which formerly was under the umbrella of the coalition. Now it is part of Martinsville-Henry County Family YMCA.

The 2010 release said 394 people had enrolled in Activate’s Bike Basics 101 and 242 people had participated in the low-impact walking program (in partnership with the Martinsville YMCA). “A major accomplishment of Activate is the Activity Toolkit, which includes 30 pages of information about local trails and walking and biking opportunities. It also includes a water bottle and a ‘step-tracker.’” The release said that 830 residents had enrolled in the program, and 84 percent were walking on a regular basis.

The five-year evaluation cited increases in health care access, among other improvements. It showed that the number of patients served at the Bassett Family Practice increased from 1,237 (with 4,539 total encounters) in 2008 to 2,146 (with 9,786 total encounters) in 2009.

The five-year evaluation cited other improvements in access to health care:

• Patients served in MedAssist program increased from 1,662 people (16,465 medications requested) in 2008 to 1,730 people (19,609 medications requested) in 2009.

• Better coordination of care: In an interview earlier this year, Jackman said MedAssist serves more than 2,000 people each year. To qualify, people must meet income limits and, usually, not have any type of insurance that covers medicine.

• Increases in the numbers of people served by FAMIS and related health-care coverage (FAMIS stands for Family Access to Medical Insurance Security and is Virginia's health insurance program for low-income children and pregnant women).

In interviews early this year, Jackman and Cox said the coalition plans later this year to launch “Health Connect,” a hub to find out about health care services available in Henry County and Martinsville.

The service will have in-person, telephone and online components. People will be able to use Health Connect to, for instance, learn which doctors are accepting new patients and/or not accepting patients enrolled in federal health insurance programs, Jackman and Cox said at the time.

People also will be able to get information about government aid programs and help in enrolling in the programs as well as help in learning to use health care equipment such as blood pressure devices, they said.

Cox said recently she had not received any recent updates about Health Connect. She said a database is being developed, and the next step is to find a location for Health Connect.

Earlier this year, Cox said the Harvest Foundation had awarded 38 grants totaling more than $16.4 million to 20 organizations working to improve area residents’ health and safety.


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