By Wendy Cox
If you’ve paid attention to the news over the last 10 years, you’ve likely heard debate around our nation’s healthcare system. In many respects it seems Americans really have a “sick care” system instead.
We visit our clinics most often when we are already sick, and physicians are paid almost exclusively for treating sick patients. This model is financially burdensome (Figure 1). Environments and behavior, which can be changed, are at the root of most illness, and yet only 4% of our $2.3 trillion-dollar healthcare budget is spent to promote health and prevent illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control, chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity affect half of Americans and account for 75% of healthcare spending. Because chronic conditions are preventable with lifestyle and environmental changes around risk factors like diet and physical activity, our current models of care and funding don’t make financial sense. More money should be invested in creating healthy environments that lead to healthy behaviors.
With generous support from the Episcopal Health Foundation’s Community Centered Health Home (CCHH) grant, Family Health Center (FHC) is engaged in creating a more efficient model. A CCHH clinic acknowledges the factors outside of the exam room that affect patients’ health, and actively participates in changing them. FHC is doing this alongside community partners by addressing diet, physical activity, health-harming legal needs, access to green space, and community policy decisions.
Family Health Center, along with our partners at World Hunger Relief, Inc. (WRHI) have implemented a prescription for produce program. Physicians write prescriptions for fresh produce, and WHRI delivers it to four clinics. Patients then fill their produce prescriptions at their clinic, much like they would pick up medication from the pharmacy.
Caregivers from FHC can also write prescriptions for exercise. With exercise equipment and fitness advisors provided by Baylor University, patients redeem their prescriptions at FHC’s Wellness Center located in the Madison Cooper Community Clinic.
FHC providers prescribe legal services to patients. Greater Waco Legal Services is teaming up with the Madison Cooper Community Clinic medical group to form a Medical-Legal Partnership aimed at helping patients address their health-harming legal needs as individuals, and on behalf of groups when clusters or trends are identified.
FHC has made property available for the development of a health-promoting Community Gathering Space. Located next to FHC’s main site on Colcord between 15th and 18th, and guided by the expertise of Dr. Aime Sommerfeld-Lillard, this park-like garden space will offer clinic staff and neighbors a place to nurture their physical, mental, and social well-being.
FHC physicians serve on working groups of the Prosper Waco initiative. As part of a “Health in All Policies” approach, FHC physicians and staff are collaborating with other community members to embed health considerations into decision making on a broad range of efforts influencing health.
You’ve read this far, so you must be interested in moving our community from “sick care” toward a more holistic, efficient healthcare system, too! If so, there are several ways in which you can be involved:
- Contact FHC’s Development Director, Carlos Hinojosa, to contribute financially to any of the projects
- Get in touch with Rachel Ledbetter, FHC’s Volunteer Program Coordinator, to learn about ways to volunteer your time and expertise
If you want to learn more about any of the initiatives, see the links below:
And for a real treat, enjoy Letitia’s story about her experience at FHC.
After nearly 20 years as an educator, Wendy Cox returned to school and earned a master’s degree in Public Health from Baylor University. She is currently the Community Centered Health Home (CCHH) manager at Family Health Center and spends her days working with clinic staff and community partners to facilitate their work in making our community a healthier place to live. In her spare time, you’ll likely find her walking Waco’s extensive river trails, reading a novel, or watching a movie with her family.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
By Lindsey Breunig
In the acronym alphabet soup, you are bound to have a couple repeats. If I told you that the BLT program creates opportunities and changes lives, I can understand how you might have a glimmer of doubt. Now, how does a Bacon Lettuce Tomato sandwich have such a strong impact? You see, in my world BLT goes beyond a tasty sandwich…
Better Living for Texans (BLT) is a statewide nutrition education program created by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service (Texas A&M AgriLife). If you are unfamiliar with Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension Service, do not worry, I too was completely confused (Sic’Em Always).
Extension Services are nationwide and connected to the state’s Land Grant University. Land Grant Universities were established by Abraham Lincoln through the Morrill Act to connect universities to the community. In Texas, our Land Grant University is Texas A&M. Extension Services bridge America’s universities to local communities. University faculty and staff connect and work with local Extension professionals to apply their expertise and connect community members to research based knowledge.
Texas A&M AgriLife reaches every county in the state of Texas. Local needs impact Texas A&M AgriLife’s presence in every county. Some efforts include but are not limited to: mitigating drought impacts, water conservation, landscapes, and production agriculture, improving emergency management, enhancing food security, and protecting human health through education about diet, exercise, and disease prevention and management (BLT!).
Texas A&M AgriLife is literally for everyone. The Texas 4-H program engages youth every year in learning projects, leadership development, and community service. I found this necessary to explain because sometimes to understand a piece you need to see the whole picture. Here in McLennan County you too can find Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Services. Our office is located downtown and houses professionals here to serve the county.
Breaking Down BLT:
Statistics show that 1 out of 6 Texans struggle with food insecurity, hunger, and eat less than the daily recommended allowance of fruits and vegetables. Additionally, Texas children and adults are less physically active than recommended. McLennan County is no exception and it is critical that we change these statistics in a positive direction.
BLT’s target audience is adults and children with limited resources. Whether someone is young or old, BLT was designed to help people prepare healthy meals, improve their physical fitness, save money at the grocery store, grow their own foods, and adopt better food safety habits. We provide facts rather than the latest trends. BLT is here to empower individuals, families, and communities to make positive changes for healthier lives on limited resources.
BLT programs are delivered in a variety of ways and at different locations. You may see BLT programming at health fairs, community centers, food pantries, church events and, more! Groups or participants can decide from the several available curriculums or request one-time education events or cooking demonstrations. If there is an interest in health and wellness, we are there! Below are our programs topics:
Basic Healthy Living:
Basic Healthy Living covers quite a lot. Topics range from food safety, cooking, preserving, and meal planning. It is our hope that adults increase fruit and vegetable intake, learn to cook nutritious meals, and spend less on groceries. Here we want healthy eating to be practical and attainable for everyone. We are here to challenge the notion that “it’s too expensive to eat healthy.”
Healthy Aging is similar to Basic Healthy Living but focused on seniors. In our programs we talk about steps to remain independent by choosing healthy diets and staying physically active.
Maintaining a healthy weight:
Here we do not diet but we establish a healthy eating plan within one’s calorie requirements to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
The gardening curriculum begins at the basics. Education includes how to select a garden location, learn techniques on how to compost, plant and water, and control insects. Participants learn how to grow fruits and vegetables and learn how to cook with produce grown from their own garden. The BLT program relies on the knowledge from the numerous Master Gardeners (another Texas A&M AgriLife program!) here in Waco. They are a great resource for learning how to grow fruits and vegetables!
Fitness is for EVERYONE, and BLT wants everyone to find their favorite way to get active and moving. We have our statewide challenge called Walk Across Texas (WAT) where people from the community create teams with family, friends, and coworkers to log walking miles; however, miles are not limited to walking. Being active and moving will get you across Texas. There are several other ways BLT works to get folks moving and to include more fruits & vegetables in everyone’s daily routine.
Although the Better Living for Texan’s program may not promote the daily consumption of a BLT sandwich, BLT is here to make health attainable and practical for all. This done through providing research and evidence-based nutrition, health and wellness knowledge to empower individuals, families, and communities to make positive changes for healthier lives. BLT creates opportunities, and changes lives.
If you are interested or want to know more about the Better Living for Texans program here in McLennan County, please do not hesitate to reach out, and ask. We would love to get involved with your group or organization!
Call our office at: 254-757-5180 or email Lindsey.Breunig@ag.tamu.edu
Lindsey Breunig is a graduate of Baylor University and currently works as the Better Living for Texans Educator for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She is originally from Grapevine, TX and now calls Waco home. Here in Waco she loves to venture out to Cameron Park, visit the local Farmers Market, and try out the awesome eateries in Waco. If you see her and hear a loud bark, that’s her pup Lucy just saying hello.