Healthy Living Initiative
Introduced in 2006, Bethesda’s Healthy Living Program was created to meet a need for monitored and ongoing diabetes care for uninsured diabetic patients. It provides disease monitoring, medication assistance, glucometer testing and monitoring, and education, and features scheduled doctor visits and individualized monitoring between visits to ensure that patients are following treatment recommendations. If complications arise, patients are referred to local volunteer specialists.
The program also addresses obesity as a cause of diabetes. With grants from the Junior League of Tyler, The Women’s Fund at East Texas Communities Foundation, and the American Medical Association Bethesda was able to launch “Eat Better to Live Better,” a comprehensive wellness/nutrition program. Topics in the program include principles of a healthy diet, food safety, serving sizes, and the facts about fat and sodium.
Participants entering the program are weighed, their BMI is calculated, and their blood pressure is taken. Those who complete the series but want to keep learning are invited to attend a monthly nutrition support group held at the clinic.
The East Texas Extension Agency and East Texas Food Bank have played a key role in the implementation of this class series. Specifically, the lesson plan as well as many of the volunteers engaged in teaching and assisting the classes have come directly from the agency.
Additional nutrition classes have been offered through a partnership between a local elementary school and the Tyler Independent School District program for parents interested in learning healthier ways to feed their families. Bethesda has also partnered with St. Paul Children’s Foundation to pilot a nutrition and exercise program for students who are overweight or at risk for becoming overweight.
Chronic Disease Clinic
Launched in 2005, Bethesda’s Chronic Disease Clinic helps patients manage chronic conditions including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and depression. Each patient receiving care through the Chronic Disease Clinic has access to:
Diabetes and other chronic care conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol, and obesity take a tremendous toll on uninsured working adults and are a significant drain on the local healthcare resources in Smith County, Texas. According to the Texas Department of Health, approximately 24 percent of the adult population in Smith County (approximately 34,000 adults) is uninsured. And prior to the Bethesda clinic, uninsured diabetic patients had to seek care in local emergency rooms or through the health department. Unfortunately, these patients do not receive the long term, on-going care they need to properly manage their condition. Neither facility provides timely treatment, disease education, affordable diabetic supplies, or follow-up services, nor do they address the lack of exercise and poor nutrition that often compromises these patients’ overall health.
To address these service gaps, Bethesda clinic began a Diabetes Clinic in 2004. With funding from St. Luke’s Episcopal Health Charities, Bethesda has been able to hire a part-time program director to oversee the Chronic Disease Clinic, significantly improving the continuity of care provided.
The program director monitors all patients at the Chronic Disease Clinic, including patients with hypertension, high cholesterol, and obesity. Along with volunteer nurses and doctors, the program director ensures that patients keep their on-going and follow-up appointments; calls those who miss appointments; assists patients in completing their medication assistance applications; interviews patients not achieving their goal to see if there are other barriers; charts the patients’ progress; facilitates group education; trains and coordinates the volunteer professionals assisting with the program; and tracks the progress the clinic is making in achieving the overall goal of improved health care. There is a volunteer endocrinologist who works with Bethesda’s diabetic patients annually to assist in their insulin management.
Dia de las Madres (Day of the Mothers) Event
The biennial Dia de las Madres event began when leaders in Smith County’s Hispanic community recognized that many Hispanic women were unable to access various medical and community services. Dia de las Mades has grown, reaching some 1,000 participants per event.
Visitors to the event take advantage of a myriad of services, including free gynecological screenings, glucose and cholesterol tests, and dental exams for children. The event also provides a wealth of educational information on such topics as health and wellness, nutrition, exercise, early detection and preventive measures, and community resources. All services are delivered in English and Spanish.
Dia de las Madres is made possible by health-care professionals who donate their time and talents during the event, area corporations that offer financial and service support, and individual donors who give their time and money.