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Health systems

Improve individual, family and community health.

MU Extension launches Health Insurance Education Initiative

Screenshot of the Health Insurance Ediucation Initiative website. Click to visit the page.The Affordable Care Act that passed in 2010 created health insurance reforms and regulations that now affect all Missourians, whether directly or indirectly. The new law mandated that everyone, except those with a hardship exemption, enroll in health insurance or pay a penalty. It further required that, by 2015, all businesses with 50 or more full-time employees offer them affordable health insurance or make a shared responsibility payment to the government.  Businesses with fewer than 25 employees can now get a tax credit for offering affordable health insurance to their employees.

MU Extension created the Health Insurance Education Initiative to help individuals and business owners understand their options and responsibilities under the Affordable Care Act and provide resources to help them make fully informed health insurance decisions. State MU Extension faculty, Molly Vetter-Smith, health education specialist, Brenda Procter, personal financial planning associate professor, and Graham McCaulley, personal financial planning extension associate, lead the Initiative. They created a curriculum covering basic components of the new law, including a range of coverage and payment options, tax credits and penalties, unique effects on different groups, how employer-based insurance affects employees, changes to Medicare, and how to get enrollment assistance. The curriculum includes speaker notes that provide a high level of detail and background information and make the curriculum a helpful training resource for those working with consumers. It is available for purchase outside Missouri and is designed for use by extension or community agencies that have a nonpartisan mission.

The Initiative is an integrated program that taps into all appropriate program areas within MU Extension. Eighty faculty from family financial education, nutrition and health, human development, agriculture, business development, community development, labor education and 4-H youth development are trained to deliver the program in all 114 Missouri counties. MU Extension already has offered over 150 workshops, reaching approximately 1,800 Missourians.


MU Extension’s Continuing Medical Education program helps improve the health of Missourians by bringing the latest research and clinical guidelines to health care practitioners. In 2013, more than 1,700 programs reached 29,000 health care professionals in Missouri and beyond.

The program partnered with the Missouri Arthritis and Osteoporosis Program to deliver 26 multisession health education programs on arthritis and chronic disease management.


Human Environmental Sciences Extension faculty and staff reached more than 600,000 Missourians this year with educational programming.

The Focus on Kids program helped 3,038 separating and divorcing parents in Missouri learn how to work cooperatively for the sake of their children. This face-to-face program helps divorcing parents raise their children in healthy, low-conflict environments, reducing the need for community health services for children of divorce.

Sedentary lifestyles are a key factor in the overweight and obesity epidemic. As a result of attending an MU Human Environmental Sciences Extension program, 62 percent of young people and 94 percent of adults indicated that they increased their physical activity levels. Participants reported increased balance, flexibility and strength. Participants remain active, live independently and contribute to society for a longer time. A healthy population also keeps more discretionary income circulating within the local community.

Sedalians lose weight, improve health, inspire community

photo: Sedalia Healthy U participants

Megan Webb (left), Healthy U coach from MU Extension, leads Healthy U students through one of many exercises during class.

As a counterpoint to overindulgent eating, frequent snacking and high-caloric intake, a special group of people in Sedalia dedicated the past year to fighting a common affliction: excess weight. At the same time, they want to be inspirational examples of healthy lifestyle changes for fellow community members facing the same problem.

To overcome long-held habits of excessive eating and infrequent exercise, this dedicated dozen joined a new 12-month program in 2012 — Healthy U — designed by the Pettis County Healthy Living Action Group (HLAG), a local network concerned with promoting healthy lifestyles. HLAG includes Bothwell Regional Health Center, University of Missouri Extension, Katy Trail Community Health and several other Pettis County groups.

Healthy U encourages participants to adopt balanced diets and reverse sedentary habits, says Megan Webb, MU Extension nutrition and health education specialist. It also requires them to share their experiences — challenges, triumphs and revelations — with the community through news media interviews, blogs, civic club talks and community events.

“The idea is not just to impact the 12 students, but for them to influence the community,” says Webb, who also serves as a counselor and coach for Healthy U students. “It’s inspiring for the community to see the progress they’re making.”

“One of the things we’re really looking for with our 12 Healthy U students is that they are representative of our community so that everybody can potentially identify with one of them,” says Sarah Nail, HLAG chair, Healthy U program developer, and community outreach coordinator for BRHC.

After nearly a year of weekly meetings and continual dedication to improving eating habits and increasing exercise, the Healthy U dozen is seeing goals become reality. All have dropped weight; some have lost nearly 100 pounds.

“I just got tired of being tired, and tired of watching life go by while I was just sitting,” says Healthy U student Bob Satnan, editor of the Sedalia Democrat. “My daughter is a senior this year and my son is in eighth grade. It dawned on me that if I didn’t do something I might not see either one of them graduate. It’s a lifestyle change. This is about getting myself to a weight that’s manageable.”

Another Healthy U student, high school teacher Alicia Maggert, is proud that she and her comrades serve as examples for others: “I can stand up here and tell you all the right things — how many calories to eat, how many pounds to lose every week, what exercises to do — but at the end of the day it’s not a matter of what you say. It’s what you do.”

Members of the Healthy U class of 2012 graduated Jan. 3, 2013. “They plan to continue healthy eating habits and lifestyle practices,” says MU Extension’s Webb. “That same day a new group of 12 started its yearlong trek to improved health.”

Nursing Outreach’s Enhanced MU Leadership Development Academy for RNs and Nursing Home Administrators In Long-Term Care transitioned to an eight-day, face-to-face format with webinars to condense the time required.


Nurses from 91 of Missouri’s 114 counties attended Nursing Outreach continuing education activities.


MU Extension’s Eat Well, Be Well With Diabetes program reached 717 Missourians. Participants reported improvement in eating habits, monitoring blood sugar levels, making healthy food choices and preparing healthy foods. Before the program, 13.9 percent used the plate method or carbohydrate counting at meals. After the program this number jumped to 79 percent.