One of the factors in any given persons health is income level. People living with lower income or in poverty face particular challenges in maintaining their health.
On average, children living in low-income families or neighborhoods have poorer health outcomes. Current estimates are that one in five children live in poverty. Yet, even within todays economic climate, there is hope in our community. An innovatively holistic local collaborative, organized through Human Services Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, works closely with about 45 families on a range of goals, including better health.
Team members consist of human services resource advisers, a career counselor with The Training Advantage, an advocate from Advocacy for La Plata and San Juan Basin Healths Parents Plus Coordinator Marianne Ball.
As a public-health nurse, Ball conducts an initial home visit that includes a health assessment and health history of children and parents. She also looks at whether the children are in a safe and healthy environment. As a nurse navigator, she connects parents with health care while ensuring the children get to a pediatrician for wellness visits. Getting regular dental care for children is important to Ball, who makes many referrals to Southwest Smile Makers and other San Juan Basin Health programs.
Ball fits in education about medication, reproductive health, the importance of adult and child wellness visits, and conducts monthly classes.
Regular contact with clients allows her to provide that invaluable and often overlooked follow-up, such as ensuring that an eye appointment is scheduled and attended. Many parents have ongoing health conditions that prohibit them from being employed or staying with a job. Ball assists them in navigating obstacles toward solutions by getting services they need. One client couldnt pass a driving test because of vision problems. Ball made sure she got an exam and facilitated getting glasses through our Eye and Ear Program. This small, but crucial, step allowed her client to then get a job.
One clients knee problems prevented her from staying on her feet all day at work. Fast tracking an orthopedic appointment was just one part of Balls equation. The other was negotiating a delay in orientation at her clients new workplace, which enabled the client to actually keep the job.
One success is having parents use me as their own nurse, said Ball. I can then: 1) educate them; 2) send them in the right direction so they dont go to ER for nonemergencies and 3) inform my partners.
Ball helps people in seeing other ways of accessing care other than using the emergency room for all health issues. This is a win-win for them and the community, saving the community and hospital money and time. And it saves the family anxiety and trips to the ER.
I respect this program our community has created, Ball said. Our team treats people as individuals. With experts in different fields, we share observations and suddenly things gel, and we know next steps ... and thats hopefully a step closer in improving their familys health.
Jane Looney is the communications director for the San Juan Basin Health Department.