Category Archives: Blog

A Nutritionist’s Dream

April is stress awareness month, and we can all take steps to improve our personal health and well-being. Stress not only makes us feel bad, but it can worsen almost any health condition. Stress can intensify asthma, diabetes, and it can cause or aggravate obesity, heart disease, depression and anxiety, accelerate aging and even lead to premature death. Regular exercise reduces the risk of certain chronic diseases and reduces stress and anxiety. Cindy, a nutritionist from Huerfano County, and her family incorporate healthy living in their daily lives. There she also tries to help patients in the clinic improve their health status.

Engaging in 30 minutes of exercise each day has health benefits for people of all ages, including reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and feelings of anxiety. In addition to daily exercise, there are other ways to reduce stress. One can meditate, read, do something creative. Talking with friends or family, stretching, or even just taking a few deep breaths can help reduce stress and improve overall health.

Tell your story.  What have you done to decrease stress in your life and improve your health and well-being?  Decisions about your health are too important and too personal to be left up to others.  You can inform yourself about the issues and take steps to improve your health.  Contact us to tell your own story about healthy living and make your voice heard!

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Park Hill Community Forum

Thank you so much to everyone who attended last night’s Park Hill Community Forum in Denver.

During our forum we played two stories from our Park Hill collection; Sharon and Karen. These stories highlighted some of the themes focused on in our community profile; provider relationships and chronic disease. The group agreed that although there are many people with great patient-provider relationships, we still have a long way to go to make sure Park Hill residents get the care they deserve. Frequently the word “humane” was mentioned, begging the question, why are we comparing our care to that of animals?

Although it may be difficult and slightly overwhelming to take in the information from these stories, we had a positive conversation about possible solutions. These topics span the entire state of Colorado and our nation, yet the reality of the solutions to address those issues are unique to Park Hill. Participants had tangible ways to plug into existing community efforts in Park Hill and Northeast Denver, whether that be joining the be well movement or getting involved with the Metro Organizations for People (MOP). We admire each of our participants for their individual insight into our current health state, suggestions for improvement and involvement, and eagerness to learn more.

We would like to say thank you especially to all of the storytellers for their willingness to share their personal health stories. They serve as both personal histories, as well as treasures of the local community. We would also like to thank the community activists, health care providers, and community based organizations that came out last night and participated in this all too important conversation about health. A special thanks to the Hope Community Center for the use of their community space!

We look forward to continuing the conversation at our next forum! (Check out our calendar for future events)

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A Doctor’s Impact

Today is Doctor’s Day! You and your family should be able to get the care you need, when you need it. Are you getting the health care you deserve? If so, tell your provider you appreciate them!

Park Hill resident Sharon was frustrated when searching for her adult physician, feeling like she was “quantity versus quality,” just one of many patients needed to keep a practice afloat. Upon finding her current provider, she realized he had the same positive qualities as her beloved childhood pediatrician. It is Sharon’s hope that in the future all children and adults will be as happy with their provider as she is, and that everyone will have a stable medical home.

medical home is a doctor’s office, a community clinic, or a local health department where you and your family go for all of your health care needs. Most importantly, the staff at your health care home knows you and understands your health needs. Patients with a sustained health care home have better satisfaction with their care, take advantage of more preventive care measures, and utilize the emergency department less frequently. According to the Colorado Health Institute Colorado will need 71 to 117 new primary care physicians to meet the health care needs of the estimated 510,000 residents of Colorado who will be newly insured under health reform.

Live in Park Hill? Join us at the Hope Community Center at 3475 Holly Street in Denver on Tuesday April 3 from 5:30-7:30pm at a community forum to hear stories of fellow Park Hill residents and join the conversation about health in your community! Light refreshments will be provided.

 

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Leanne Clark,MSW, LCSW, Medical Social Worker, guest blogs in honor of Social Work Month

Since March is Social Work Month, it is the perfect time to talk about social workers who work in the Colorado health care field.  As one of those social workers, I often get asked get asked the question, “So what exactly IS a “medical social worker?” There are many variations to the answer to this question and, generally, theyʼre all correct.

Medical social workers are present in settings along the entire spectrum of the health care “experience”, always working within an integrated-care system. We are involved in prenatal care and the preparation for a familyʼs development when women are admitted to the hospital prior to giving birth. Weʼre present for the development of that child and family, sometimes both in the pediatricianʼs office and in the hospital. We work in primary care doctorsʼ offices with people throughout their adolescent and adult lives, as well as in specialty-care offices, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, home health care agencies, and hospice organizations. We also work with people in the later stages of life who live in long-term care facilities, assisted living centers, and nursing homes.

I work as a licensed clinical social worker in a primary care and gynecology clinic that houses a residency program. We provide primary care and gynecology services for patients 13 and older, and also participate in the education and training of intern and resident doctors during their 3-year post-medical school residency. In my role, I act as a case manager, a resource navigator, a program advocate, and a community agency liaison. I also act as an educator, a confidant, a “listening ear”, a source of encouragement (for both my clients and my colleagues), and a member of an integrated care team that strives to provide holistic care for our patients.

Throughout my 5 1/2 years at the clinic, Iʼve had patients that both challenge and excite me. Iʼve personally experienced the difficulties and emotional hardship that come when you canʼt do “enough” for a patient. Iʼve also had patients who have thanked me profusely for things that I quietly consider to be “small” in nature. My daily work repeatedly reminds me that the value of what I do is not determined by the number of patients I see, or the number of referrals I make. Rather the value lies in the reaction of my patients to the “help” I attempt to provide, and the effect that our interactions have on their daily lives and mine.

Medical social workers participate in activities that range from planning safe and appropriate hospital discharges for patients, to providing ongoing treatment of ailments ranging from mental health needs to medical and social-support needs. We do all of this while attempting to keep in mind the personal needs and desires of each and every client we come into contact with. Medical social workers are an integral, though sometimes behind-the-scenes, part of the health care system in Colorado.

-Leanne Clark, MSW, LCSW, Board of Directors, National Association of Social Workers: Colorado Chapter

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Christina Brown, Colorado HealthStory Storyteller, talks about being a caregiver

Giving a Gift

My intention when I started writing this was to blog about medical challenges, as we all know there are numerous ones to choose from. Then I got thinking about all the pieces that must come together for patients to heal. I asked myself, what makes people better? Proper access to medical treatment, good follow-up care, provider follow through, strong communication, and extensive education…the list goes on and on. Yet no one can underestimate the importance of a consistent caregiver. Being a full-time caregiver is a huge commitment, and for many of us, it means our lives are changed forever.

No matter the need of your loved one, being a caregiver is stressful. Having a child with special medical needs takes caregiving to another level.  Days are filled with such intense emotions, large enough to move mountains, the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Jaden has given me so much joy, and he makes my heart swell. Yet there are times I am filled with an overwhelming loneliness that only the isolating task of being a caregiver can produce. Despite the daily roller coaster of emotion I am on, the greatest gift I have ever received is to see my baby smile and hear his laugh while playing with his brother.

Being a caregiver is like being an ever present cheerleader. I spend my days working hard to give Jaden the love and attention he needs, shuttling him back and forth to various therapy sessions. We caregivers are responsible for helping the ones we love make improvements to their individual qualities of life. These improvements may take years of tireless work, often wrought with doubt that things will ever get better. But I have learned that healing is a process. And nothing means more than seeing Jaden’s pain and helplessness turn into his successes.  Through all of this I have realized that no matter how hard the situation may be at the time, it will get better with hope. Over the years I have been so close to losing hope and accepting defeat in this never ending battle. Yet the reward is much larger than I would ever know. It is my wish that everyone has an experience with a caregiver. Whether you act as one yourself, or are special enough to have one in your life; it is important to understand their sacrifice. I can say, through all of these emotional hurdles, that it has been my honor to care for Jaden.

If you are interested in learning more about my family and our journey, listen to our story here or visit my blog.

Christina Brown

Denver, CO

Colorado HealthStory Storyteller

 

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A Son’s Career

According to The Status of Behavioral Health Care in Colorado, 3 in 10 Coloradans are in need of mental health or substance use disorder care. Although the number of mental health and substance abuse disorder care practitioners in Colorado has increased since 2003 by nearly 35%, Colorado still has a shortage of psychiatrists and other providers with specialized skills.

Dr. Carl Clark’s early experience with his father’s bipolar disorder inspired a career in helping people with mental illness and substance use disorder recover and regain their lives.  As Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Center of Denver (MHCD) he leads the organization in “focusing on what people can do, not what they can’t do.”

Colorado is in need of more providers like Dr. Clark, especially in the rural and frontier areas.  As a state we must reorganize and revise the behavioral health and primary care workforces outside of the metro Denver and Colorado Springs areas.  We need to work to provide general and specialized behavioral health care for older adults, children, and culturally and linguistically diverse Coloradans.

You and your family are entitled to get the care you need, when you need it.  Are you getting the behavioral health care you deserve? Colorado has taken important steps to improve our behavioral health system and is home to many resources.  If you, your friends, or family need help consider contacting Mental Health America of ColoradoNAMI Colorado, or Metro Crisis Services.

Decisions about your health are too important and too personal to be left solely to others, and you don’t have to be an expert to make a difference – you just have to tell your story. Sign up to share your behavioral health story by e-mailing info@coloradohealthstory.org, and we can help make your voice heard.

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The Immigrant Women’s Health Stories Project

Here at Colorado HealthStory we’ve been making an effort every Friday on our Facebook page and Twitter to recognize other story-collecting projects.  This week we highlighted The Immigrant Women’s Health Stories Project from the Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning. This project really resonated with us because we’ve just begun collecting stories in the Denver metro area.  Check out these ten amazing stories that cover navigating the health care system, access to health care, mental health, cancer, and more.  We know that Denver residents are not alone in their struggles, and have seem many of these same issues across the state.

Taken from The Immigrant Women’s Health Stories Project:

“These ten stories from immigrant women in the metro Denver area illustrate a number of the health struggles facing Colorado’s increasingly diverse population… As Coloradans continue to work together to improve access to quality health care, these stories are instructive for understanding the current weaknesses in today’s health system and identifying new opportunities for improvement.”

Decisions about our health care are too important to be left solely to others.  We can help make your voice heard along with other Coloradans.  Getting the care you need, when you need it, isn’t too much to ask.  Let’s work together and use lessons from stories like these to move Colorado closer this common-sense goal.

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An Athlete’s Recovery

This month, our featured newsletter story was about Carlos, a Summit County resident broke his neck while playing high school football.  Despite the quick response of his coach and athletic trainer, his shattered C4 and C5 vertebrae left him initially paralyzed from the neck down.  Carlos took his recovery of his incomplete quadriplegia into his own hands and battled the odds.  With the help and support of family and physicians, he participated in extensive physical therapy.  Carlos claims the turning point was discovering outdoor recreational therapy, and says “its up to you to search it out…and I recovered tremendously considering how serious the injury is.”  We know that decisions about your health care are too important to be left solely to others.  Fortunately, Carlos was able to navigate the system successfully and get the care he needed.  Would you know know the steps to take if a friend or family member was injured?  Does your athlete have adequate insurance?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that during the 2005-2006 school year, more than 1 out of 3 of the 4.2-million adolescents participating in high school sports sustained injuries.  On January 1, 2012, the “Jake Snakenberg Youth Sports Concussion Act” went into effect, a law that requires coaches receive education about concussion and implements restrictions on athletes suspected of having suffered from a concussion.  We applaud Colorado for taking steps to protect its athletes.  We know that Coloradans have always worked together to tackle tough problems; health care is no different.

It only takes a small act to make a big difference. Please talk to your local coaches, athletes, and parents about the new concussion law and help us continue the conversation about health in Colorado.

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A Mother’s Choice

This week our Featured Story is about Maya, an Aurora resident living with diabetes.  Maya recently had to choose between insuring herself or insuring her children.  She did the math, and to be able to afford her insulin, made the tough decision to purchase health insurance for herself and leave her kids uncovered.  She explained, “Since I have diabetes I couldn’t afford to cover my own kids on my insurance policy with me.”  What would you have done in Maya’s situation?

Maya is not alone in this struggle, according to the recently released Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS), 85% of those uninsured in Colorado claim to be so because insurance costs too much.  Over 1.5 million Coloradans are currently uninsured or underinsured.  That is over 1 in 3 Coloradans with significant barriers to accessing their basic health care needs.  You should be able to count on insurance that covers you when you get sick.

Fortunately Maya was able to navigate the health care system successfully and get her children insured through CHP+.  The Colorado Health Institute estimates that 78,000 of the 112,000 uninsured children in Colorado are eligible for, but not enrolled, in Medicaid or CHP+.  Interested in learning more about kids coverage and who qualifies for Medicaid and CHP+?  You might be surprised that a family of four with an income up to $55,000 a year may be able to get their kids covered.

Check out All Kids Covered, a non-partisan coalition dedicated to giving every child in Colorado access to affordable health coverage and quality care to get more involved!

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Colorado Community Health Network Newsletter

Thanks to the Colorado Community Health Network for featuring Colorado HealthStory in their October newsletter!  Read about their health center news, policy update, CHAMPS update, CCMCN and CCHN updates, and upcoming events.  We’re on page 7!

CCHN October Newsletter (PDF)

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Summit County Forum

Thank you so much to everyone who attended last week’s Summit County Community Forum in Frisco.  As many of you are aware, we are nearing the end of our pilot phase, and all of your participation and feedback is essential to the success of our project.

During our forum we played three stories from our Summit County collection; Betty, Juana, and Jeff.  Although it may be difficult and slightly overwhelming to take in the information from these stories, we had a positive conversation about possible solutions.  Participants commented on the unifying frustration with our current heath care system and applauded people working to change it.  That same night, Governor Hickenlooper, attended the Aurora Town Hall meeting.  We were intrigued to discover that although 100 miles apart, two different community forums spoke about the Colorado Health Benefits Exchange.  One of our health story staffers even volunteered to come back and present specifically on the Colorado Health Benefits Exchange to Summit County residents because it was such a hot topic.  We admire each of our participants for their individual insight into our current health state and eagerness to learn more.

Again we learned that the stories individual Coloradans share are not unique to one person or one community.  Rather, many of the issues we have been discussing continue to resurface over and over again.  These topics span the entire state of Colorado and our nation, yet the reality of the solutions to address those issues are unique to Summit County.

We would like to say thank you especially to all of the storytellers for their willingness to share their personal health stories.  They serve as both personal histories, as well as treasures of the local community.  We would also like to thank the numerous community activists, county officials, health care providers, and community based organizations that came out last Wednesday night and participated in this all too important conversation about health.  A special thanks to our partner organization Summit Community Care Clinic for all of their help!

We look forward to continuing the conversation at our Rocky Ford Forum in the BAIE Center at 408 North Main St Rocky Ford, CO 81067 from 5:30-7:30!  (Check out our events calendar for all future forums)

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Aurora Community Forum

Last night Colorado HealthStory was proud to host its first community forum in Aurora.  We would like to thank all who attended, especially with such terrible weather!  We appreciate everyone coming out and spending their evening with us discussing personal health stories, as well as solutions and initiatives to address health issues in Aurora. 

During the forum we played three stories from our Aurora collection; Tesfahunega, Mariana, and Manley.  Afterwards we discussed that the problems in these stories are not specific to a single community in Colorado.  Rather, these issues can be found across the state and even nationwide.  Yet, the reality of health care access and solutions to address those issues are unique to Aurora. 

Although it may be difficult and slightly overwhelming to take in the information from these stories, we had a positive conversation about possible solutions.  One participant said that it was important for every Aurora resident to take responsibility for his or her own health.  With small steps like this, we could eventually reach a loftier goal of making Aurora the healthiest city in Colorado.  We admire each of our participants for their individual insight into our current health state . 

Thanks again to the storytellers for their willingness to share personal health stories with us.  They serve as both personal histories, as well as treasures of the local community.  We also appreciate the community activists, city officials and community-based organizations that came out last night and participated in the important conversations about health.  We know getting everyday Coloradans involved in the conversation about health is critical, because those decisions are too important and too personal to be made only by someone else. 

We look forward to continuing the conversation at our Summit County Forum in the Fremont Room of the Senior and Community Center at 151 Peak One Rd., Frisco, CO !  (Check out our events calendar for all future forums)

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Mariana Ledezma, Colorado HealthStory Storyteller, speaks out for mental health

I love Colorado HealthStory because it gives people a voice and allows them to share their own personal stories. It humanizes the topic of “health” and highlights some very real struggles and also great success stories. I told my HealthStory so I could share my personal experience dealing with postpartum depression. I really wanted to encourage people to talk about it with hope and to end the stigma associated with mental health issues.

Listen to my story here.

I am so excited to participate in the Aurora community forum this Thursday because I really want to hear the other HealthStories from Aurora residents. I can’t wait to get to know the people behind the voice and to learn from their experiences!

I hope to see you there!

Mariana Ledezma
Aurora, CO
Colorado HealthStory Storyteller

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Steinbeck and Stories

John Steinbeck once said:

“If a story is not about the hearer, he will not listen.
In this I make a rule — a great and interesting story is
about everyone or it will not last.”

Steinbeck offers an interesting perspective about writing stories.  I do believe great novels have common overarching themes with which most readers can relate to (morality, coming of age, love, death, etc.) and that great oral stories follow the same rule.  As we are learning with Colorado HealthStory, some of the most compelling stories can be centered on an idea that may appear relevant to  a select few, yet engage a much wider audience.

For example, Myrenna, an Aurora, CO resident delivers a wonderful narrative about her son’s experience with Asperger’s Disease, a mild form of autism.  She describes her struggles and triumphs, and one feels empathy and compassion for her and her family.  While most of us will never know what it is like to have a family member with Asperger’s, we can relate to her determination to see him succeed, her frustration when her crusade seems hopeless, and her satisfaction when she makes a difference.  Colorado HealthStory provides an opportunity for community members to support one another, despite having very different experiences.  If after hearing Myrenna’s story, more people are simply more knowledgeable of Asperger’s, she has achieved her goal of increasing awareness.

I believe that all of Colorado residents’ HealthStories are about the “hearer,” the all encompassing “everyone” and that one may find a little of his or her own story in each of the others.

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