East Waco Voices: Feeding the (Healthy!) Body and Soul at Carver Park Baptist Church – Part 1

(Carver Park Baptist Church is helping to lead a healthy food revolution in East Waco through their food related ministries.  They have so much going on that we couldn’t squeeze it into one post. This is Part 1 of the story.  Stay tuned for Part 2! – ALW)

By Khristian Howard

In the South, food is the social apex of our culture. In a region that is known for its hospitality and deep religious roots, food could not have a more important role. Nowhere else is this more apparent than in the church. At Carver Park Baptist Church, Evelyn Moore has been leading the Culinary Arts Ministry in healthy, innovative directions.

As the name suggests, the Culinary Arts Ministry is more than just a food and fellowship team. Under Mrs. Moore’s direction, this ministry is introducing the church and community to healthier ways to prepare and eat cuisine that they have enjoyed for generations.

Evelyn Moore has been a part of the Waco community for over seventy years and a part of Carver Park Baptist Church for over forty. After leaving Waco as a young adult, she returned with her husband to raise her children here. “When it came time to raise my children, my husband and I talked about it and we felt that Waco was a quiet, reasonably positioned place to raise children in,” she says.

Having been raised in church, Moore was no stranger to serving the community. As a young mother, she and other church members were involved with neighborhood improvements like advocating for paved streets, getting a local landfill closed, and school integration. Moore says, “Community situations have always been a part of what our life was…we were involved with everything political or that had to do with improving the community.”

In the Culinary Arts Ministry, Mrs. Moore and her team approach service with thoughtfulness and creativity. “We make sure that whenever we have a church function, we have a reasonably healthy meal,” she shared. This includes two Sunday breakfasts, a mid-morning snack for the children, bereavement meals, meetings, and other church events.

When asked how she classifies a meal as “reasonably healthy,” Mrs. Moore explained that the meal components consist of two to three vegetables, little to no fried foods, whole grains, and as many fresh greens and fruit as possible. She stated, “Whatever is in season and is reasonably priced is what we offer on the menu every Sunday.” She explained that improving your diet is all about making informed decisions about what ingredients, foods, and processes to substitute, for example baking instead of frying, having 2% rather than whole milk, and substituting agave for sugar.

In the past, due to kitchen limitations, nutrition was sometimes compromised for time and ease of preparation. The church would often send out for fried chicken when there was an event. Moore says this was one of the first things they opted to change, “We wanted to get away from that fried chicken because fried chicken is…fried chicken! It’s saturated in fat, and it’s not always good for us.”

So, how has this nutritional shift been received by the church members? Evelyn says, “People who never ate carrots before, eat our carrots. People who never ate beets before, eat our beets…They’re learning how to prepare things they’ve never made before.” The key is creating familiarity for people who are afraid to branch out. To help create this, the Culinary Arts Ministry implemented a tasting day, “We have even done a heart healthy menu…We wanted to show people on that particular day that you could have tasty food, without it being bland and it can still be healthy.”

The Culinary Arts Ministry makes it a point to educate the rest of the church staff as well. Every third Sunday, they host a class where they discuss foods from the Bible, give hospitality training, and share tips about what to expect when hosting guests.  More specifically, among Carver Park’s senior Bible study group, Moore is sharing more detailed information about health, nutrition, and exercise. “They’re lifestyle changes, not a diet. Our whole objective is to make us better, and to help others be made better by what we learn and do.”

For the community at large, Carver Park Baptist hosts an annual event titled, Feed My Sheep. Here, community members can join them for a healthy dinner and can receive food basket donations. Aside from this, people can come in to any service and eat there at any time.

The abundance of knowledge and resources within the Culinary Arts Ministry begs a pertinent question: Why doesn’t the community make healthier food choices? “I actually believe that people don’t eat healthy because of finances,” Moore shares. She began to reflect on previous attempts to connect the people in East Waco to healthy food. One of those early efforts was the “Veggie Van” organized by World Hunger Relief, Inc.  As the name implies, the organizers would bring a van full of fresh vegetables to East Waco on a regular basis and offer them for sale.  “I thought that the produce wagon that used to come through was pretty good,” Mrs. Moore says, “but they were a little bit expensive for the people in the neighborhood.”  To remedy this, Moore has high hopes of rebuilding the church garden which would provide fresh produce to the community each week – with no obligation to turning a profit.

Another key ingredient Moore says is needed to help the community eat healthier is education – not only for nutrition, but for buying fresh with a low budget. “We need to get people educated on what they can eat without it being so expensive. Everybody says eating well is so much more expensive, but if [they] knew how to eat and how to prepare it [they] wouldn’t spend as much money.”

Moore is a strong believer in making a plan and sticking to it. Her advice to those who are new to or struggling with eating healthier? “Go to the market with your budget and your menu and have what you buy be geared to that. Work within those parameters. The next week do the same thing, and you’re going to learn that the food is much more tasty and makes you feel much better.”              

Evelyn Moore continues to be a leading voice in improving the nutritional components of meals within her church and her community. However, she is just one of a team of individuals at Carver Park Baptist, and in East Waco, who are seeking to improve lives through better food. Another of these individuals is Helen Lewis, who manages Carver Park’s expansive food pantry. We will share that story in Part 2 of this series.

Khristian Howard is an Atlanta native and a recent graduate of Georgia State University where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. She has a passion for empowering communities through service, and seeks to connect advocacy to creativity. Currently, she is serving as the AmeriCorps VISTA for Texas Hunger Initiative Waco, where her work focuses on fostering collective impact to improve health and eating habits in East Waco. When she is not working, you may find her sharpening her culinary skills or exploring new poetic and artistic pathways.  

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

The Business of Health Care: Cancer Care

By Glenn Robinson

Cancer is now the leading cause of death in the United States and globally.  Few among us have not already been touched by cancer in some way, whether it be ourselves, someone in our family or dear friends and colleagues.  With that in mind, the following are a few notes on cancer care that will hopefully be helpful if cancer becomes a part of your life.  

Cost

According to a study in The American Journal of Medicine, cancer forces 42 percent of patients to exhaust life savings in two years. It is expensive to treat, with patients facing potential surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments – in addition to expensive imaging tests. There are hospital stays, multiple doctor appointments each month, and many tests… not to mention the high cost of cancer-fighting medications, or income lost from missing work.

A recent study found that cancer patients, on average, are more than twice as likely to declare bankruptcy as those without cancer. Should you or a loved one face a cancer diagnosis, here are steps that may reduce some of the financial burden:

  1. Talk to your health insurance company and make sure you understand deductible and copay requirements.
  2. Take someone with you to doctors’ appointments who is not afraid to bring up the cost question on your behalf, if necessary.
  3. Tell care providers that cost is a potential issue.
  4. Discuss therapy options – and their cost – with your provider. Beyond choosing a lower cost therapy, avoiding low-value tests and procedures can save a lot of money.
  5. Consider hiring a financial counselor to help guide the family through this aspect of care.

Following these steps can help patients focus less on finances, and more on getting better.

Alternative Therapies

Nearly four in ten Americans believe that cancer can be cured solely through “alternative” therapies, such as oxygen therapy, diet, and herbs – according to a survey by the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Many in the medical community were shocked by this finding and the danger it represents. A 2018 study underscores the danger, finding that patients with cancer using alternative medicine were more likely to decline potentially curative conventional cancer treatment, thereby increasing risk of death.

The National Institutes of Health has declared that no alternative health product or practice – such as acupuncture, chiropractic medicine and herbal medicine – has been proven to cure cancer. While these services may help patients manage cancer symptoms and side-effects from treatment, relieve stress, and improve quality of life, they are not a cure.

Patients facing cancer must keep in mind that delaying conventional cancer treatment can decrease the chances of remission or cure, and that using unproven products or practices to postpone or replace conventional medical treatment may be a costly mistake.

Even if they don’t delay conventional care, some alternative therapies may interfere with cancer treatments or be unsafe for cancer patients. Anyone diagnosed with cancer should consult their cancer care providers before using any alternative therapy for any purpose — regardless of whether it’s cancer-related.

Alternative therapies often do have a role in cancer care. As part of an ongoing discussion, patients and their physician can determine which therapies are safe and supported by evidence.

Advanced Treatment Options

For decades, when it comes to treating cancer, there have been three main options: surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. Often these treatments are used in concert with one another to rid patients of tumors and eradicate any traces of the disease.

While these will likely remain staples of cancer care for the foreseeable future, a host of new advanced treatment modalities are coming online and are expected to expand the cancer care toolbox.    

One is immunotherapy, which looks for ways to bolster the body’s immune system to prevent the spread of cancer. Some cancers take hold and spread throughout the body because they aren’t susceptible to the body’s immune response and even develop immunity to chemotherapy drugs and radiation. Immunotherapy attacks the cancer’s defenses, potentially allowing for effective treatment.

A related field of cancer study is therapeutic viruses and dendritic cell vaccines. These are biological agents, engineered in a lab, capable of seeking out and destroying cancer cells while leaving healthy tissue alone.

Another exciting development in cancer research involves nanoparticles. This advanced, microscopic technology can be used to more precisely target cancer cells in multiple ways without harming normal cells. For instance, nanoparticles can deliver heat to tumors to shrink them, or be loaded with medication and sent to hunt down cancer cells.

There may never be one silver bullet to cure cancer, but rapid progress on many fronts hopefully will someday lead to its demise.       


Glenn Robinson is the President of Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Hillcrest. He has over 30 years experience in hospital and health care management, and currently serves on several Boards associated with the Texas Hospital Association and the American Hospital Association. In addition, Glenn is Past-Chair and an active member of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, and serves on the Prosper Waco Board.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

East Waco Voices: Da Shack Farmer’s Market

By Khristian Howard

East Waco is a source of rich, proud history. Just a mention of revered figures like World War II hero Doris Miller or of Paul Quinn College, the oldest historically black college in Texas, reminds us of the national significance of this part of the Waco community.

What does East Waco have to offer now? There are several gems in the community that continue to sustain the residents, preserve its culture, inspire change, and fuel its heartbeat… but you may have to look for them. One such gem is Da Shack Farmer’s Market. Located in a quaint and quiet part of the neighborhood at 925 Houston Street, “Da Shack” (like the name implies) may not impress you from the outside. However, once you walk through the doors and enter the green oasis that is their garden, you realize it is a hub for nutritious food, education, beauty, and serenity.

Donna Nickerson, a licensed psychotherapist and owner of Da Shack, sat down for a brief interview.  She shared about how the farmer’s market began, and talked about her dreams for benefiting the community.

First, how did they come up with the name?  “I wanted something that was catchy, something that was different. As far as the name, ‘Da Shack’ is not a place where it’s fancy…it’s just simple.” she explained.  “We try to implement simple things – even with gardening. We try to utilize our resources and try to communicate that with the community as well. That way they know you can use what you have. You don’t have to be fancy with things, just use what’s available.”

What should a visitor expect from Da Shack?  For Donna, the most important thing is for customers to leave with an education, even if they do not buy anything. “When they come here, they are going to learn about healthy eating, organic growing, gardening. Our goal is not to just provide healthy organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs…but also to educate them on how to grow and start gardening.” Da Shack is a place where there is something for every potential gardener. For folks who do not want to grow their vegetables from the ground, Donna and the others at Da Shack can give advice and guidance on how to start with pots, vegetable cans, or even in water.

Donna’s passion for educating people on how to improve their health shares roots with her profession as a clinical social worker and psychotherapist. Da Shack provides an avenue for addressing both physical and mental health.  In fact, Da Shack is now offering mental health services to the community. Donna is registered with most insurance agencies and is also providing sliding scale and pro-bono sessions for visitors to learn about behavioral health, managing stress, and more. When asked about why she chose to connect therapy to the farmer’s market, she stated, “Behavioral health is a barrier for a lot of people. If it is not addressed, it creates walls for individuals. Healthy people understand stress and how to cope with it…If you are in good condition physically, you’ll be in good condition emotionally, and vice versa because they work hand-in-hand…not a lot of psychotherapy services are present [in East Waco] and it is a big need.” Furthermore, she wanted “people in the community to come to a place where there is serenity, relaxation, warmth, and resources.”

In recent years, Waco has been a hub for social and economic transformation. Businesses are seeing a new promising market, families are finding supportive communities for their children, and students continue to flood to one of the oldest, most respected universities in the South. The work that Da Shack does in the community could be done downtown or in Woodway or Hewitt, so…why East Waco? When approached with this question, Donna gives a nod to the importance of managing perceptions about the neighborhood. She sees promise in East Waco, she says, and wants Da Shack’s location to be a catalyst for collective impact around healthier living there. “…As long as people continue to develop, as long as people continue to have a positive outlook, there’s really a lot of potential here, it’s just going to take a lot of collaboration. A lot of the key people that are willing to do something really need to be connected.”

Da Shack is a special place for East Wacoans, and for the rest of the city as well. They offer organic products that range from houseplants and outdoor plants, to vegetables and herbs, to instructional sessions about plant benefits and growing.

Beginning February 2nd, they will be accepting SNAP as a way to eliminate any financial barriers for the community – though their products are already priced at a fair rate to ensure affordability. In addition to this, they will soon be implementing smoothies for those who would rather drink their veggies, greenhouse classes and tours for students and non-profits, and monthly donations to families in need in East Waco.

Da Shack Farmer’s Market has taken a creative approach to marrying hobbies with service, nutrition with mental health, and the public sphere with privately-owned business. Ventures like these build on the historic positive energy of East Waco and move the whole community of Waco toward a healthy future.


Khristian Howard is an Atlanta native and a recent graduate of Georgia State University where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. She has a passion for empowering communities through service, and seeks to connect advocacy to creativity. Currently, she is serving as the AmeriCorps VISTA for Texas Hunger Initiative Waco, where her work focuses on fostering collective impact to improve health and eating habits in East Waco. When she is not working, you may find her sharpening her culinary skills or exploring new poetic and artistic pathways.  

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

5 things every Wacoan should know about Family Health Center

By Rae Jefferson

For nearly 50 years, Family Health Center has tended to the medical needs of Wacoans from every corner of our community. FHC is a nonprofit organization with a rich history rooted in high-quality, compassionate healthcare. We offer a number of full-scope medical services, some of which are an unexpected take on maintaining health. Here are five nuggets about FHC, the work we do, and why we are in the business of caring for Waco and McLennan County residents.

1. We believe everyone should have access to quality primary care. Regardless of background, financial status, or medical history, everyone deserves tools that will lead to the longest and healthiest life possible. FHC is dedicated to providing medical, dental, and behavioral health services to underserved communities across our region. Of the nearly 60,000 patients served in 2017:

  • 97% were at or below 200 percent of Federal Poverty Guidelines
  • About 9,300 indicated they were homeless, and
  • 31% were uninsured.

Services at FHC are designed with patients in mind. We operate 14 clinical sites to maximize accessibility, as many of our patients have limited mobility or access to transportation. Additionally, some FHC clinics accommodate working patients’ schedules by staying open 55 hours per week, including most evenings and Saturday mornings. The main site (1600 Providence) features an in-house pharmacy that provides significant discounts to qualifying patients for brand-name prescriptions. FHC also works to maximize reach and impact through partnerships with groups like McLennan County Health Services, local hospitals, United Way, MCC, Baylor, and others.

2. We will celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2020. FHC was founded in early 1970 after local medical providers identified a gap in care for Wacoans without commercial health insurance, as well as a shortage of doctors in the Waco area. The center was developed by leaders in local business, politics, and medicine. Since that time, FHC has been committed to its mission of providing primary care to those for whom access to healthcare has been historically limited.

3. We are home to one of the most competitive residency programs in Texas. The Family Medicine Residency Program (FMRP) began when Family Health Center first opened. It helped address the shortage of doctors in the Waco area and was one of the first accredited family medicine training programs west of the Mississippi River. Today, FMRP is in the top three percent of all programs nationally. More than half of the family medicine doctors practicing in McLennan County are program graduates, and more than half of all program graduates practice in Texas. The program is widely recognized for innovation in electronic health records for patients, curricular design, and quality of graduates.

In 2019, FMRP is a finalist for the Baldwin Award, a national honor recognizing residency programs that teach compassion-based patient care and provide excellent treatment of residents – which has been historically problematic in medical education environments across the country. Only six out of more than 10,000 residency programs across the U.S. are being considered for the award.

4. We are a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC). This means we qualify for special government funding, receive enhanced reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid, serve underserved people in a comprehensive way (medical, dental, behavioral, etc.), and provide a sliding fee scale for uninsured patients (that’s #5). FHC has to meet several other requirements – like having a board of directors that is majority FHC patients – but each requirement ensures the center provides the best possible care to patients.

5. We have options for the uninsured. With registration for the Affordable Care Act falling 4 percent this past December, it’s reasonable to assume more Wacoans will be uninsured than in recent years. The Good Health Card is a sliding fee scale offered by FHC to low-income patients without health insurance. Patients qualify for one of four categories, labeled A through D. Each category determines appointment co-pay (up to $20) and the percent paid by the patient for any services rendered (up to 50%). This sliding scale payment system is required for FHC to maintain its FQHC status, but it also helps create a system where traditionally underserved members of the community have access to necessary medical, dental, and behavioral health services across McLennan County.


Rae Jefferson is a creative, Netflix binger, and marketing professional, in that order. Originally from Houston, she stuck around Waco after graduating from Baylor University with a B.A. in Journalism, PR, & New Media and a minor in Film & Digital Media. Now she’s the Communications Director at Family Health Center, where she gets to spend each day serving Waco. When she’s not working, find her at home snuggled up with her dog-daughter, Charlie, watching “The Office” for the hundredth time.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

Rising from Ashes: Yoga contributes to Holistic Healing from Trauma

By Jaja Chen & Bonnie Finch

Trauma can be debilitating for individuals, couples, families, and impacts our greater Waco community. We have seen from the #MeToo movement in our nation this past year ways that speaking one’s story can empower and remove stigma in confronting and talking about trauma and its impacts.

Trauma includes but is not limited to interpersonal trauma such as physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or spiritual trauma and is can be a shock to one’s body, mind, and spirit. When thinking of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) recovery, we may not always think of yoga. However, researchers in the field of trauma continue to find how our bodies physically remember trauma and how body-based approaches can play a pivotal role in holistic trauma recovery. 

When we become activated and triggered, our bodies go into a state of stress, also known as Fight/Flight/Freeze. We leave the present moment and may go back to when the traumatic event(s) occurred. We enter into a survivor mode – our blood pressure increases, our breathing becomes short and quick, and our heart begins to race, just to name a few of the stress responses. Once triggered, it can take our bodies nearly 8 hours to get back to optimal functioning level.

This physical body response impacts almost every system including our digestion, hormone outputs, cardiovascular system, muscles, and bones. The longer we are in the triggered response, the more physical impacts it can have on our bodies. By learning grounding and centering techniques and slowly adding mindfulness and meditation, we can teach our bodies to recover faster and move into the present moment.

Yoga also empowers us with choice.  

Many survivors of trauma may continue to feel shame regarding loss of power and choice in the midst of difficult situations. Through guided, easy movements, we can work on finding ways to bring positive choice back into lives. These seemingly simple movements begin to create a BRAVE space inside us. We use the word “brave” space instead of “safe” space because we do not want to assume that our students feel safe, or that they have to feel safe. We try to help establish courage within our students to let them know that whatever they are feeling is okay.

While yoga is about coming into the present moment, it is more about ACCEPTING that moment just as it is. When we show up with courage, we begin to develop compassion for ourselves. The physical movements of yoga inspire curiosity – to not only help the body feel good – but to bring back a sense of sacredness, peace, and self-love. Learning the skill of coming into stillness allows that peace to unfold into every aspect of our lives.

While not a quick fix, these skills are what we strive to practice every day for the rest of our lives. We are eager to share these tools with you and our Waco community as well. We invite you in joining us in our practice.

At Enrichment Training & Counseling Solutions, we love providing holistic trauma recovery. Our upcoming Phoenix Yoga series provides trauma-sensitive yoga, meditation, and trauma education to participants. We will be co-leading this 8-week yoga program in upcoming weeks this spring. For more information and to register see our website: https://enrichmenttcs.com/groups-events/

Jaja Chen, LCSW, CDWF is a private practice therapist in Waco through Enrichment Training & Counseling Solutions specializing in PTSD, maternal mental health, and compassion fatigue. As an EMDR Trained Therapist, Jaja loves providing holistic trauma recovery to the Greater Waco community. Jaja can be contacted via email at Jaja@enrichmenttcs.com or via webpage at http://enrichmenttcs.com/meet-jaja-chen/

Bonnie Finch, is a Licensed Massage Therapist MT #129813 and a 500 Hour Registered Yoga Teacher. She has almost 3 years of teaching experience and has trained with Warriors at Ease teacher training for trauma recovery. Bonnie specializes in helping people evoke the relaxation response, to foster healing from within. Bonnie can be contacted via email bonnie@enrichmenttcs.com or via webpage  https://enrichmenttcs.com/meet-bonnie/

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

The Business of Health: Understanding your Health Insurance Policy

By Glenn Robinson

One of the hallmarks of the information age economy is consumerism – in this instance, defined as businesses making their goods and services more convenient, affordable, or otherwise desirable to customers.

For years, virtually every segment of our economy has embraced this trend… except healthcare. At least until recently. Increasingly, healthcare consumers are expecting that their experience with healthcare providers mirror the experience they have with some of the world’s top brands.

This rise in healthcare consumerism will continue according to a recent brief by Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. Not only have consumer expectations and experiences with other industries helped drive this trend, but so has the increasing popularity of high deductible health plans and incentives offered to those covered to make cost-effective choices.

In other words, as the financial burden of healthcare decision-making shifts to patients, patients are more apt to become more conscientious and expect more out of those rendering healthcare services.

This trend towards healthcare consumerism has already led to many noticeable changes in industry practices. The growing number of convenient walk-in clinics and the introduction of telemedicine are manifestations, as is the increasing focus healthcare providers put on patient experience surveys and online reviews. An entire cottage industry has grown up around healthcare design and construction to make the care environment more warm, welcoming, and comfortable.

However, one big obstacle still remains to true healthcare consumerism – pricing transparency.

It’s a complex issue, but one many organizations are working to solve

You know having a health insurance policy is important, but equally as important is understanding what is in the policy so you can plan accordingly. Unfortunately, much of the language used in health insurance plans isn’t part of the everyday vernacular.  With that in mind, here are some common terms and what they mean.

A premium is the amount of money you or your employer pays monthly or annually for your health insurance.

The deductible is how much you must pay out of pocket before your insurance starts to pay. Keep in mind, though, many preventive health services don’t require you to pay a deductible.

Co-insurance is how much you must pay out of pocket even after meeting your deductible. For instance, 80/20 co-insurance means you’re still responsible for paying 20 percent of charges.

This is different from a co-pay, which is a flat fee – for example 20 dollars – you might have to pay for a doctor’s visit. 

Maximum out-of-pocket expenses are the most amount of money you will be required to pay per year for deductibles and co-insurance.

The term covered expenses refers to what medical services or prescriptions are or aren’t paid for by a plan.

Beyond these terms, if you don’t understand something about your plan, how it works, and what it covers, you can call the toll-free number on the back of your health insurance card. Most reputable insurance companies have staff trained to explain the ins and outs of every policy.

Most Americans appear to believe: your health is your wealth. While wealth sometimes can create its own problems, health inevitably is a source of happiness… and the value of health increases with age, usually surpassing the importance of wealth.

If you had a choice, would you spend your time striving for health or wealth? A majority of Americans pick health, according to a survey by TD Bank. The company surveyed over 1,000 U.S. consumers who made a 2018 New Year’s resolution.

The top goal of respondents was to eat better, with 54 percent citing it as their priority. The top financial goal was to save more and spend less, with 39 percent selecting it as a priority. Millennials – young adults between ages 22 and 37 – said eating healthy and getting in shape or staying fit is more important than saving more and spending less money.

Health and wealth are not mutually exclusive. About 41 percent of those who indicated they were satisfied with their financial health are more likely to be satisfied with their physical health, emotional health, and family well-being.

People with good health are more likely to have the energy and stamina to excel in the workplace, and they are less likely to spend time and effort dealing with the debilitating effect of chronic health conditions and disabilities.

Although most respondents said they are less confident they will achieve their goals to get in shape, they are more likely to seek advice for financial issues. Health typically is something that you earn if you are persistent and disciplined – it cannot be bought.

 This report, and other episodes, are available at KWBU.org


Glenn Robinson is the President of Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Hillcrest. He has over 30 years of experience in hospital and health care management, and currently serves on several Boards associated with the Texas Hospital Association and the American Hospital Association. In addition, Glenn is Past-Chair and an active member of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, and serves on the Prosper Waco Board.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Business of Health: Pondering Innovation

By Glenn Robinson

When it comes to technology that makes our lives better, the trend has been smaller, faster, and better. When it comes to next generation medical procedures being rolled out nationwide, that trend has largely been mirrored.

Procedures that once took hours, now may take only minutes. Procedures that once involved long, unsightly incisions, are now being conducted with tiny tools that may only require an incision the size of a razor nick.

Perhaps nowhere have these advancements been more pronounced than in heart care and orthopedic medicine. Take, for example, procedures to repair or replace damaged valves in the heart. Ten years ago, these procedures often involved major invasive surgery, a week or more in the hospital, and months of recovery.

Today, many of the nation’s leading heart programs – including right here in Texas – offer solutions for certain valve problems that are so minimally invasive, qualified patients can leave the hospital in as little as one day and be fully recovered within a matter of weeks.

Similarly, major orthopedic procedures, particularly in the field of joint replacement, have come a long way since the turn of the century. Advances in pre-procedure imaging, artificial devices, and operational technique have led to artificial hips and knees that feel as good as the original with a fraction of the recovery time.

These and many other innovative procedures are creating better outcomes and giving more patients the opportunity to improve their quality of life. But how do scientific studies performed in labs turn into these actual medical treatments?

Translational medicine transforms basic scientific discoveries into innovative therapies for patients. This kind of research, often referred to as “bench to bedside,” seeks to implement evidence-based medicine safely, effectively, and as quickly as possible.

One of the most challenging aspects of translational medicine is gaining widespread adoption of new, evidence-based medical practices. It takes the complete commitment of an organization’s top management to recognize and reinforce the importance of this kind of research and its comprehensive, consistent application.

Many leading health care organizations are represented through research institutes, which facilitate translational medicine. These institutions focus on basic science, clinical trials, and healthcare quality-of-care research. They seek to understand the basis of a disease, identify potential treatments or preventive therapies, and enroll patients in research trials.

The institutes’ objectives are not only to make new scientific discoveries, but to implement research successes into community-based healthcare practices and then promote proven prevention and treatment strategies throughout the entire organization and greater healthcare community.

These institutes have been responsible for creating several novel therapies right here in Texas and have attracted millions in grants from U.S. and international government agencies to support important research efforts –  turning laboratory research into new standards of care for the entire industry.

Another new trend in the world of research is the use of artificial intelligence, or A-I. A-I can solve complex problems that exceed human capabilities. Through its ability to access vast troves of data, A-I algorithms can both exceed the knowledge of experts, and augment the abilities of non-experts.

A-I already is disrupting transportation, marketing, and financial services, among other sectors of the economy. In healthcare, this technology is gaining momentum and has the potential to significantly alter the industry not only by developing new treatment options, but also by streamlining back office operations.

As care providers look to better engage patients and improve efficiency, many are turning to artificial intelligence to help them succeed. A-I powered medical assistants can book appointments, remind patients to take their pills, monitor a patient’s health status, and perform other time-intensive tasks.

A survey of health consumers found 55 percent are willing to engage with A-I and robots for healthcare needs. At a recent South by Southwest conference, Mark Rolston of Argo Design said artificial intelligence and virtual reality will be important parts of healthcare’s future.

Likewise, Oscar Salazar, of the app Pager, said that A-I gives nurses “superpowers.” He predicts that A-I increasingly will take over decision-making for healthcare triage and diagnosis, dramatically changing the roles of healthcare professionals.

Don’t expect your doctor to be going away anytime soon though. Like many technologies, A-I works best when paired with smart, capable people.

 This report, and other episodes, are available at KWBU.org

 


Glenn Robinson is the President of Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Hillcrest. He has over 30-years of experience in hospital and health care management, and currently serves on several Boards associated with the Texas Hospital Association and the American Hospital Association. In addition, Glenn is Past-Chair and an active member of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, and serves on the Prosper Waco Board.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey Baby Boomer! Do you take better care of your car… or yourself?

By Glenn Robinson

Pop quiz. Are the Baby Boomers – people born between 1946 and 1964 and now entering their retirement years – more or less healthy than previous generations? The assumption has long been that they are.

Not only has Americans’ life expectancy increased in recent decades, we also are healthier later in life. Since the early 1990s, the average 65-year-old has gained an extra nine months of life expectancy, but gained a full year of disability-free life on average. Research bears out that the change in disability rates has been substantial. In the early 1980s, one in four elderly people had difficulty living independently. Today, there are fewer than one in five.

In addition, despite a major increase in the number of elderly in our country, the nursing home population today is virtually the same as it was two decades ago – yet another testament that the health of the population is improving, even as more people live to older ages.

David Cutler, an economics professor at Harvard University who researches disability, has reached the conclusion that people in general are in much better health right up until the last year or two of life. This is in stark contrast, he says, to previous generations in which people spent their final six or seven years of life being very sick and in and out of the hospital.

Boomers were the first generation to have greater access to healthcare and services such as regular immunizations, preventive care, and widespread use of antibiotics. They also grew up in a generally prosperous economy, and many benefitted from greater educational and employment opportunities compared with earlier generations.

All these factors positively correlate to being healthier. Research comparing Baby Boomers with people from two decades ago in the same age bracket also shows that Boomers are healthier in some important ways, including being less likely to have emphysema or suffer heart attacks.

Two critical factors have played a vital role in dropping mortality rates from heart disease. First is the slow and steady decline in smoking rates over the past half-century, which is a critical risk factor for heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 1965 more than 42 percent of adults smoked. By 1993, that number tumbled to 25 percent, and, as of 2015, only about 15 percent of adults were smokers.

While the decline in smoking is a big win for public health, the advancements in detection and treatment of heart disease is the major success story in medicine over the past two decades. From blockbuster new cholesterol and blood pressure medications being given more often to the right patients at the right time, to groundbreaking new imaging heart technologies and minimally invasive procedures straight out of a science-fiction novel, the medical advances to manage all facets of heart disease are perhaps unparalleled in medicine.

This may all paint a bright picture, but many of these positives are offset by the negative impact of weight-related health problems. The proportion of Baby Boomers with diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity is increasing, so the answer to whether or not Baby Boomers overall are healthier than previous generations is somewhat mixed.

One solution to this lies in the concept of preventative care.

Nine out of 10 pet owners know when their dog or cat is due for their shots. Eight in 10 mothers know their child’s sports schedule by heart, and 80 percent of men know how often they should have their oil changed. Yet only 50 percent of family health care decision makers know their blood pressure, and only 20 percent know their own key biometric numbers such as cholesterol and body mass index.

While Americans are great at preventive care for their pets and cars, it appears that is not the case when it comes to their own health. This issue puts pressure on the entire health care system because the old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” holds true to this day.

Preventive care such as regular check-ups and practicing a healthy lifestyle help individuals avoid or delay disease. It also can help people catch a health problem early on, when it is most treatable. The Affordable Care Act requires new private health insurance plans to fully cover the costs of 45 recommended preventive services. This means patients pay no deductibles or copayments, or otherwise share costs of these services.

Unfortunately, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that less than half of Americans were aware of the change, meaning many people may be avoiding preventive care out of cost concerns. To make sure you’re not one of them, take advantage of these preventive services when you go in for your annual check-up.

For all the challenges surrounding health care in America, this is one of our healthcare system’s good-news stories.

This report, and other episodes, are available at KWBU.org


Glenn Robinson is the President of Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Hillcrest. He has over 30 years of experience in hospital and health care management, and currently serves on several Boards associated with the Texas Hospital Association and the American Hospital Association. In addition, Glenn is Past-Chair and an active member of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, and serves on the Prosper Waco Board.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charity, CHIP, Medicaid and the Community

By Glenn Robinson

Each year, thousands of Texas patients must rely on charity care to receive the medical services they need. Hospital charity care means no payment is expected for the services the hospital provides, which means that patients who qualify for such care typically receive no hospital bill and are not subject to collection efforts.

While Texas may lag far behind other states when it comes to number of residents who have health insurance coverage, it was the first state to establish a required level of community benefit for non-profit hospitals in exchange for state tax exemption.

This community benefit requirement means that Texas not-for-profit hospitals must spend four percent of expenses on charity care, and a total of five percent overall on charitable activities.

While exact criteria to receive hospital charity care may vary, generally patients who receive care at a non-profit hospital may apply for complete or discounted charity care if they are either financially indigent – meaning they are uninsured or underinsured with an income at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level; or are medically indigent – meaning their medical or hospital bills exceed a certain percentage of their annual income after payment by insurers, leaving them unable to pay the remaining bill.

A hospital’s total uncompensated care is the sum of its charity care provided and uncollectable patient debt. Since 2000, U.S. hospitals have provided more than $538 billion in uncompensated care.

Funding for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program recently have been the topic of a lot of hot political talk in Congress, so let’s take a closer look at these two government-administered health insurance programs.

Medicaid covers about one in five Americans. It reaches many low-income children, adults, seniors, and people with disabilities.

In Texas, children, the disabled, and seniors represent 90 percent of those covered by Medicaid. The remaining 10 percent are working-age adults – three-quarters of whom are employed, but do not earn enough to afford health insurance or do not work for an employer offering insurance.

Medicaid is the nation’s major source of long-term care financing, which is particularly important in supporting seniors and helping relieve the care burden that often falls on families. It also provides benefits for people with disabilities who are unable to find or afford other coverage.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, is low-cost health coverage for children of families who earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid.

Medicaid, together with CHIP, has resulted in improved access to care for children and helped bring the uninsured rate for children to record lows. Children with Medicaid or CHIP have greater access to care than uninsured children and comparable access to children with employer-sponsored insurance.

But enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP have positive impacts on children and families beyond improving access to health care services. These programs may provide financial protection for families who have very little otherwise.

When we talk about a changing approach to healthcare in this country, many people’s minds immediately go to what is going on in Washington regarding healthcare policy – or perhaps some of the latest and greatest treatment technologies.

These are indeed important, impactful facets of the changing healthcare landscape, but perhaps even more impactful is the shifting mindset of many hospitals and healthcare organizations who are now focusing on overall community wellbeing.

Central to these efforts are innovative and effective community partnerships. Through community partnerships, hospitals and health systems seek out new and nontraditional partners to improve both health and overall quality of life in the communities they serve – regardless of the ethnic, racial, socioeconomic or physical circumstances that make up a community.

These non-traditional partners for hospitals may include police and fire departments, food banks and grocery stores, community recreation centers, churches, and local non-profits addressing issues such as housing and education.

The esteemed Robert Wood Johnson Foundation believes hospital-community partnerships are indispensable when it comes to building what it calls a “Culture of Health.” While often viewed as non-traditional, these partnerships make good sense because good health is dependent on far more than the medical care available to a community. A safe environment and dependable access to healthy foods are essential to the cause, as are a range of other factors.

These partnerships have the potential to reshape communities and change lives. And in the end, isn’t changing lives for the better what great healthcare is all about?

This report, and other episodes, are available at KWBU.org


Glenn Robinson is the President of Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Hillcrest. He has over 30 years experience in hospital and health care management, and currently serves on several Boards associated with the Texas Hospital Association and the American Hospital Association. In addition, Glenn is Past-Chair and an active member of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, and serves on the Prosper Waco Board.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

Understanding Health Care: Electronic Health Records and HIPPA

By Glenn Robinson

Health care is among the most heavily regulated industries in America – virtually every aspect of the health care system is subject to government oversight.

There are regulatory mechanisms to supervise the doctors and professionals who render care; the institutions in which care is provided, such as hospitals and clinics; the medications and medical devices that are the tools of care; and the insurance coverage that finances it all. These regulations are developed and implemented by all levels of government — federal, state and local — as well as private organizations.

Everyone in health care agrees that regulations and standards are necessary to ensure compliance and to provide safe health care to every patient. Policy debates, for the most part, typically focus not on whether oversight should exist, but rather on how it should be structured. Impartial, external oversight is considered necessary to protect the public interest – even by those who are especially suspicious of government bureaucracy.

American health care has flourished over the past 100 years. Rather than hindering its progress, the complex system of government regulation actually may have served to support and nurture it.

Consider, for example, the public confidence engendered in the competence of physicians through licensure requirements and in the safety and effectiveness of prescription drugs through the Food and Drug Administration’s approval process.

Another form of regulation is known as HIPAA. At some point while filling out a bevy of forms at the doctor’s office, you may have run across this term.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, was passed by Congress in 1996 and was intended to improve health care efficiency by standardizing electronic data exchange and protect the privacy of patient records.

Since 2010, as part of national health care reform, there has been increased urgency in transitioning to digital versions of patients’ paper charts called electronic health records, or EHRs.

EHRs can contain a patient’s medical history, diagnoses, medications, treatment plans, immunization dates, test results and more. But they’re not just a replacement for paper charts.

Part of what makes EHRs so powerful is that they also allow doctors and other care providers to access evidence-based tools that can be used to make decisions about a patient’s care in real time.

Another key advantage of EHRs is convenience. Health information can be created and securely managed digitally by authorized providers and shared with other providers at other locations.

This helps cut down on the number of forms patients must fill out and can eliminate the need for duplicate testing, as well as promote legible, complete medical documentation for streamlined coding and billing.

With all this information available to be shared with the touch of a button, precautions must be taken to ensure the privacy of the patient. As EHRs continue to evolve, so must our regulation of them.

The HIPAA law’s privacy standards strive to give patients rights over their health information, and set boundaries on who can receive a patient’s personal health information. Those who must follow the law include healthcare providers such as hospitals, doctors and nurses, pharmacies, insurance companies, and government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

The law limits the use of patient information by health care providers to specific purposes. Patient information can only be shared if it is necessary to coordinate treatment, pay providers for patient care, protect public health, assist police in criminal investigations, or assist family, relatives or friends responsible for care or paying medical bills – unless the patient objects.

HIPAA also requires healthcare providers to inform patients how they may use and share their health information, and grants certain rights to patients regarding their health information,  such as receiving copies of their health records upon request and being informed if their health information is being used or shared.

If you are ever concerned that your personal health information is being improperly used or shared, you have the right to file a complaint either with the federal government or your healthcare provider.

So while regulation may be seen merely as red tape in some industries; in health care, it provides a critical public protection.

This report, and other episodes, are available at KWBU.org


Glenn Robinson is the President of Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Hillcrest. He has over 30 years of experience in hospital and health care management, and currently serves on several Boards associated with the Texas Hospital Association and the American Hospital Association. In addition, Glenn is Past-Chair and an active member of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, and serves on the Prosper Waco Board.