Health

Commitment to
helping communities better address health needs

Photo of a nurse taking the blood pressure of a patient

During FY 2016, 2,094 Missourians participated in Nursing Outreach’s educational programs. Another 881 nurses were served through co-sponsored multidisciplinary programs including social workers, nursing home administrators, physicians, psychologists and counselors. More than 92 percent of the Missouri participants reside outside the metropolitan St. Louis and Kansas City areas.

As with your own health, maintaining the health of a community takes a combination of preventive and responsive measures. A community should have the means to respond to health concerns — such as trained emergency responders and properly equipped care facilities — and take proactive measures to prevent or reduce the incidence of health concerns.

"We all know to eat your vegetables and how to save, but sometimes those general goals are hard to translate into action. Small Steps to Health & Wealth shares 25 strategies for taking small steps to attain big goals.”

— Janet Hackert, nutrition and health specialist, Northwest Region

Many rural and underserved communities suffer from a lack of access to healthcare or inadequate knowledge of how to address their health needs. Feedback from patients and providers in rural areas helps MU Extension tailor programs that impact access and healthier living.

MU Extension’s Nursing Outreach program is taking a smart approach to reaching an audience that can’t take the time to travel for continuing education opportunities. Nursing Outreach serves mainly rural healthcare providers with quality, affordable continuing education programs using face-to-face and web-based delivery methods.

Changes in long-term care over the past couple of decades have made senior living and nursing home facilities more difficult environments to work in. Technology is more sophisticated. Regulations and paperwork are often more extensive. Care that once took place in hospitals — such as extended recovery from an operation, illness or injury — now often takes place in nursing homes.

Through its Enhanced Leadership Development Academy, MU Nursing Outreach offers a 7-month program that combines face-to-face classes with online instruction, mentoring by nursing faculty and networking with other participants. By addressing the need for retention of well-trained nurses and administrators, Nursing Outreach is improving the health of one of Missouri’s larger underserved populations — the elderly.

MU Extension specialists also provide education on healthier living through programs as diverse as how to manage chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease; how to purchase and cook healthier foods through Cooking Matters classes; how to access and use health insurance options, and how to stay fit and engaged at every stage of life.

Photo of five seniors holding certificates

A Matter of Balance participants with their certificates of completion.

A program, like one offered in Harrison County in collaboration with the Northwest Missouri Area Agency on Aging, addresses seniors’ fear of falling, an often isolating concern. In A Matter of Balance: Managing Concerns About Falls classes, seniors learn ways to safely reengage with activities they enjoy through exercises that improve strength, balance and coordination, as well as through discussions with peers to develop strategies to avoid falls, says Northwest Regional Nutrition and Health Specialist Janet Hackert.

Fearing the gym’s bleachers and crowds, a grandfather who “lived and breathed” basketball had stopped going to his granddaughter’s games. Exercises improved his mobility, while strategies helped restore his self-confidence. Soon he was back in the bleachers, cheering her on.

“The community benefit is that people are able to remain more active and continue to contribute to their communities,” Hackert says. These engaged seniors are also helping to improve access for all, pointing out hidden fall hazards and corrective solutions within their communities.

Whether addressing societal issues or individual health concerns, MU Extension has the benefit of decades of perspective to see how community health needs have evolved, as well as insights into what future needs may arise.