What does an accurate census count get for you?

By Christina Chan-Park

When the founders of the United States established the decennial census in Article 1 Section 2 of the Constitution, they wanted to use the “enumeration” to give the people rights and privileges.  Historically, censuses were used for conscription or taxation purposes (remember the bible story of Mary and Joseph travelling to Bethlehem for the census?); it was a way for those in power to wield control.  But the US census is used to give power to the people.  Getting an accurate census count ensures shared governance.

Most people are aware that the census determines how many congresspersons each state gets in the House of Representatives, but they might be less aware that it is also used to distribute $675 billion per year in federal funds spent on schools, hospitals, roads, public works and other vital programs.  Getting an accurate census count means that your community gets its fair share of resources from the taxes you have paid.

The data collected in the census is not locked up in a vault somewhere but is available to the public for free.  These data are accessible to companies, developers, local governments, and even individuals.  They can inform decisions on where to establish new businesses or how to revitalize old neighborhoods.  They can be used to prepare plans for public safety and emergencies.  Getting an accurate census account provides tools and information for local community development.

The census bureau collects more information that just how many people there are and where they live.  On the census they also ask about the sex, age and race of each person.  For months before the April 1 census date, the census bureau and local communities work on educating the public about why they needed to be counted and ensuring them that there are only positive and no negative consequences to being counted.  Getting an accurate census count ensures everyone is counted once and only once.

Go explore census.gov (where I cribbed a lot of my information).  There you can find more on how census data are gathered and used; what data is gathered in between the decennial censuses; and even download data and learn about your community.  Just remember: getting an accurate census count is important.

Christina Chan-Park serves as the President of the League of Women Voters Waco.  To join or learn more about LWV Waco, follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LWVWaco/ or email us at lwv.waco@gmail.com.

The Business of Health: New Technology Developments that may affect the future of care

By Glenn Robinson

Healthcare is changing rapidly with the constant development of new technology. While these developments allow us to better diagnose and treat patients, connect with the community, and promote wellness, it is important to remember that nothing can replace the trust and communication between a patient and their doctor when it comes to your health.

This month, we explore three new developments in healthcare technology and how they may affect your future care.

Prescription Kiosks

You’ve long been able to get food, drinks, money, and even DVDs out of machine kiosks. Now, there is something else Waco residents can get from similarly designed machines – their prescription medications.

In April, Baylor Scott & White Health installed the first remote prescription kiosk of its kind in Texas on the campus of the Texas Farm Bureau Headquarters in Waco, with more kiosks to be installed throughout the region in the coming months. 

The pharmacy kiosks are being introduced at various locations to make filling prescriptions easier for more patients. Making managing your health easier and more convenient is one of the primary focuses of the nation’s leading healthcare providers, as well as federal and state regulatory agencies.

In fact, the kiosks themselves are as much a regulatory breakthrough as a technological one. After a year of evaluation, the Texas State Board of Pharmacy approved new rules that took effect in June of last year allowing Texas pharmacies to deliver medications outside of retail pharmacy locations via a kiosk. These kiosks must maintain the security of the medication and the efficacy of the medication during its storage.

While different kiosks may have different features, Baylor Scott & White kiosks fill all prescriptions and make prescriptions available within hours of pharmacy receipt. They can be picked up 24-hours a day, and pharmacist consultations are available via phone or video.

As they grow in number, kiosks will hopefully help make sticking to a medication plan easier to swallow.

Trackable Pill

Privacy concerns over technology are not just limited to social media and smart phones. A recent poll found that doctors are evenly divided over the cost and ethical implications of smart pills – an innovative technology which embeds sensors into medication to allow healthcare providers to monitor when it is taken.

The so-called smart pill contains a sensor about the size of a grain of sand that detects, records, and transmits the date and time a pill is ingested to a patch worn by the patient. The patch then relays the data via a smart phone application to doctors, family members, or other caregivers.

The greatest potential benefit of smart pills is that patients may be more likely to take their medicine if they know it is being tracked. Experts estimate that medication noncompliance costs $100 billion a year – much of it due to patients getting sicker and needing additional treatment or hospitalization because they didn’t take their medicine appropriately.

In fact, according to some estimates, patients not taking their medications as prescribed leads to about 10% of hospitalizations and 125,000 preventable deaths in the U.S. each year.

On the other hand, smart pills have the potential to lead to false-negative readings and can stir anxiety among patients about having their behavior tracked. There also is no evidence thus far that this technology will help patients take their medication as prescribed.

Regardless, with the Food and Drug Administration approving the first smart pill in late 2017, this technology’s potential is something worth tracking.

Clinical Wearables

One smart device maker recently issued an odd warning – its new smart watch technology to detect atrial fibrillation is not intended for people who have atrial fibrillation.

The truth is that a gadget worn on the wrist is simply not accurate enough to assess serious medical conditions. It’s mostly a vehicle for conversations with your doctor.

Stanford researchers working with the smartwatch maker to detect atrial fibrillation probably won’t cause an epidemic of worrisome diagnoses, but it didn’t really answer most of the questions doctors or consumers have about using the watch as intended.

With that in mind, the smartwatch company is now teaming with a large healthcare company to a conduct a study of 180,000 people over the age of 65 to get a better understanding of its own device’s impact on health.

As wearable smart technology makers push more deeply into healthcare, their creations are crossing the line into becoming medical devices. Although they may fit the definition of medical devices, the Food and Drug Administration has expressed little interest in regulating low-risk fitness monitors that are promoted for general “wellness.”

In practice, this means that companies can make exaggerated claims about the effectiveness of their devices for promoting wellness while doctors are puzzled about how to effectively use the sometimes-unreliable data the devices provide.

So, for the time being, patients’ best bet is trusting their instincts and their medical providers – not their smart watches – for diagnosing potential serious health events.  

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.

Voices for our Community’s Children: CASA Advocacy As a Working Professional

(This post is part of a series of posts about CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocates.  For the rest of this series, click here: CASA-2019. – ABT)

By Jennifer Whitlark

Welcome to our 4th and final blog post in our CASA series!  To catch up on prior posts in this series, click here: CASA-2019.

Today, we have some Q&A with advocate Jennifer Whitlark, a working professional who makes time to contribute to her community even amidst her busy schedule.

How did you initially become interested in CASA?

I heard about CASA around town for several years before I got involved.  I knew it was a great organization and I waited until I had some more space in my work life in order to join the organization. 

What made you decide to get involved? 

I work as a school administrator in Waco but I deal mainly with academics in my work and I was really interested in being more involved with the family side of things with the students.  Being a CASA allowed me to experience this piece in a new way.  Also, given the population I work with in my job, I knew the needs of children in hard situations and this gave me an avenue to work with them and try and make a difference.  I also just feel called to love children and care for them.

Can you tell us a bit about your experience with CASA training and how it prepared you for your advocacy?

The training was a great time to learn the law as well as the good and hard points of being a CASA.  It was helpful to hear stories of others’ experiences and also hear about all of the supports in place for advocates. 

How does your CASA Supervisor support you in your advocacy?  Has that coaching relationship been valuable to you?

My CASA supervisor has been a great sounding board for me.  He has answered my questions, given my advice, and encouraged me.  It has been a very beneficial relationship and his help has been invaluable.   

How do you balance CASA and working full time?

I have to work to intentionally balance CASA responsibilities with my job.  I have to carve out time to see my CASA child, write reports, and make phone calls.  There are seasons when this is harder than others but it has been fine once I found ways to make this happen.

What is a highlight from your CASA advocacy so far when you felt like you made an impact? 

At the beginning of my first case, the mom was very standoffish.  She didn’t know me and didn’t trust me.  She was shy, self-conscious, and defensive.  I had to work to slowly break down the wall she had built around herself.  Fast forward to 1.5 years later she was truly a different person.  At her last court hearing her case was finally dismissed and she got her kids back.  The whole courtroom clapped and cheered and she cried.  She gave me a big hug and we celebrated.  I drove her home from court that day and she told me how much she had grown and how much she had learned.  She said she never wished this upon anyone but she explained how much more confident she felt as a mom and how this process has helped her in life.  It was such a great conversation and as I reflected on how much she had truly grown from when I met her it was a confirmation that CASAs can make a difference in lives.

To learn more about CASA of McLennan County and the need for more advocates, visit our website at www.casaforeverychild.org or find us on social media @casamclennan. 

If you have questions or are ready to begin advocating for children in foster care, email our CASA Recruiter, Kate Gilbert, at recruiter@casaforeverychild.org.

Jennifer with her husband, Jason, and daughter, Hannah

Jennifer has called Waco home for 20 years.  She is originally from California but came to Waco to attend Baylor and never left.  She has worked at Rapoport Academy since 2003, first as a 4th grade teacher for six years, then she stepped into administration as the Dean of Academics over the Elementary Campuses.  Her husband, Jason, teaches at Baylor University and they have a 12-year-old daughter, Hannah.  In her free time, when she’s not working or advocating for her CASA kids, Jennifer likes to read and work on cross stitching.

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.