Meet Dr. Heather Newhard, Swope Health Podiatrist

Swope Health announces the addition of podiatrist Dr. Heather Newhard to our family of care professionals. Here’s a bit more information about her, in her own words.

 

  • Tell us a bit about your background.   

I am a Board-Certified Podiatric Physician with more than a decade of service in the non-profit sector of healthcare.

Before attending Samuel Merrit University for podiatry medical school, I received an undergraduate degree from the University of Central Oklahoma in Biology and Psychology and a graduate degree in public health from KU School of Medicine. I completed my residency at the VA Palo Alto Stanford Healthcare System’s three-year Podiatric Medicine and Surgical Residency program in Palo Alto, California.

My clinical career has focused on integrated outpatient Podiatric medical services in Federally Qualified Health Centers.

In addition to clinical medicine, I have served in various administrative healthcare leadership roles focusing on quality, compliance, informatics, and provider and Health Team wellness.

  • Why were you drawn to podiatry? 

My mother is a Type 1 Diabetic. I saw firsthand at an early age the impact Diabetes has on the overall health of a caregiver and their families. She was diagnosed with a debilitating foot condition related to her diabetes while I was in graduate school. Researching the best qualified provider to serve her needs, I came across the profession of Podiatry.

Podiatry offers the opportunity to meet patients where they are and provide preventative and impactful conservative (as well as surgical when indicated) treatment plans to keep patients active and ambulatory so they can continue to live life fully to the best of their abilities.

  • Why is podiatry important to Swope Health’s patients?

Systemic or whole-body disease manifestations in the foot and ankle encompass a wide range of medical conditions including two of the largest clinical conditions impacting Swope patients: Diabetes and Hypertension (cardiovascular disease).

Preventive healthcare from a podiatry perspective plays a key role in mortality and morbidity from cardiovascular and diabetic related complications.

Podiatrists focus on four major systems – vascular, neurologic, dermatologic, and musculoskeletal. For example, Diabetes can damage the nerve endings in the feet which make it less likely a patient will notice an issue. Diabetes can also damage blood vessels and limit a patient’s ability to heal infection. Hypertension or high blood pressure can lead to a buildup of plaque in blood vessels which can cause decreased blood flow to your feet resulting in wounds and limited ability to heal injury or infection. Additional manifestations of skin and bone conditions can compound vascular and nerve disease.

 

  • What should patients expect when visiting you? What happens in a podiatry exam?

A typical Podiatry visit starts with a complete history of the patient – from a patient’s medical conditions, medications and previous surgeries, to home- and work-lifestyle. Getting to know the patient helps the Podiatrist best serve their needs and understand any barriers that may exist to treatment options.

Our physical exam primarily focuses on the foot and ankle. We examine your pulses, may listen to them as well. We examine your nerve health, range of motion of your joints as well as bony or soft tissue abnormalities and skin and nail health. We may have you walk or stand in place as well to see how your feet align and function with the rest of your joints.

After the exam we will provide you with an assessment of your foot and ankle health and offer you conversative options to manage issues you have. Surgical options may be discussed and referred for intervention when indicated.

  • Tell us why or how this work is meaningful to you.

My favorite days are seeing patients impacted by the preventative education and treatment options actively make changes in their lives to improve their foot and overall health. Having a poorly controlled diabetic patient finally reach their goal after learning more details about how blood sugar impacts their feet and seeing the pride in my patients – this brings me joy.

It is also very satisfying when I can pare a callus or trim nails in a patient that has not had care for a long time or simply cannot manage themselves. These patients express the best, most sincere gratitude and often walk away feeling instantly better. That is a great feeling to provide a service and see the direct result right after.

I also enjoy co-managing patients with other providers in the health center setting. Interdisciplinary care like that offered at Swope Health allows an integrated healthcare team to address patients’ needs in one location. If a patient has a foot ulcer in the medical clinic or a teenager has an infected ingrown toenail, being onsite as a part of the Swope Health team helps eliminate barriers to access for care, such as transportation and referral delays.

  • Tell us how patients will find you?  

I take internal referrals for all Swope Health patients with foot and ankle health care needs. Diabetics with risk of blood flow or nerve complications are highly encouraged to discuss a referral with their primary care provider at Swope Health. Your care provider will discuss a referral with you for blood flow or nerve complications.

Podiatry services are currently offered at Swope Health Central Adult Medicine, Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Anything you’d like patients to know about you personally?

I enjoy live music and performance, visual art, and spending time with my family and pets. Since we relocated to Kansas City last year, my family and I have enjoyed exploring Kansas City and becoming avid KC sports fans.

I am honored to be a part of an organization with such a positive longstanding community impact, and I look forward to serving our community as part of the Swope Health team.

 

Join us in welcoming Dr. Newhard to Swope Health. If you are interested in learning more, please talk with your healthcare provider at Swope Health and ask for a referral. Call 816-923-5800 to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider.

November Diabetes Awareness Month: It’s all about ACTION

Swope Health is a leader in diabetes prevention, care, and treatment, with programs designed to support and educate patients on this common chronic illness. Swope Health keeps a focus on diabetes in November, National Diabetes Awareness Month, and all year long.

“At Swope Health, we take action to prevent diabetes where possible, and we work closely with patients with diabetes to manage their condition and keep diabetes under control,” said Dr. Naiomi Jamal, Chief Health Officer at Swope Health. “We want to lessen the impact of diabetes on your life.”

Dr. Jamal, as a public health expert, designed groundbreaking programs to create an environment that better identifies pre-diabetes conditions and helps patients keep existing diabetes conditions under control. In 2018, she launched a pilot program to employ a diabetes checklist used with every patient at the Swope Health – Independence clinic.

This checklist looks for the three dominant diabetes-related issues: kidney disease, limb amputation, and blindness. For the eye test, there are retinal cameras at every clinic, meaning patients do not need to travel for or schedule a separate examination.

A second element of the pilot offered personal counseling with a diabetes counselor and small group visits with a certified diabetes educator. The practice of proactive monitoring and social engagement proved a winning combination that improved outcomes and led to the program’s expansion across all Swope Health clinics.

The program also now includes a Nurse Care Manager assigned to high-risk patients with uncontrolled diabetes. The nurse care manager develops specific care plans with the patient, and provides support with meeting goals involving medication, health foods, exercise and more.  Part of that healthy foods initiative includes consultations with a registered dietitian, who can assist with nutrition, cooking tips, recipes and more, personalized for each patient’s needs.

Additionally, Swope Health participates in a Health Equity Learning Action Network project to improve diabetic health outcomes. The project focuses on the social drivers of health – those non-medical factors that influence health outcomes, including factors like economic stability, education, and healthcare access.

Health disparities still exist in diabetic outcomes and Swope Health’s programs are geared toward decreasing them, said Dr. Jamal.

And, beginning in December, Swope Health will offer a new specialty service in podiatry, which will also assist patients with diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about half of all people with diabetes have some kind of nerve damage, and nerves in the feet and legs are most often affected.

This can lead to numbness, tingling or pain, as well as no feeling at all – which can lead to other issues if you can’t feel a cut, blister, or infection that may fester. The Swope Health foot care specialist focus on prevention and education, to avoid foot issues becoming more severe. Patients will be scheduled by referral from their primary care team.

Diabetes: the basics

Here’s a brief refresher on diabetes, with information from the CDC:

  • Diabetes is a long-lasting health condition in which your body doesn’t make enough insulin or use it effectively to turn blood glucose or sugar into energy. If untreated, it can cause serious problems, including heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.
  • There is no cure, but diabetes can be controlled with medications, diet, and exercise. There are devices to help you track your blood glucose level throughout the day.
  • In the U.S., 38 million adults have diabetes. It’s estimated that 20 percent of them do not know they have it.
  • Diabetes is a growing issue – about 98 million adults have a condition called prediabetes, with higher-than-normal blood sugars. Prediabetes can put you at risk of developing diabetes, but it can be prevented or delayed with medication and lifestyle changes.

During this National Diabetes Awareness Month, Swope Health encourages you to take action with an annual medical exam. At Swope Health, that exam will include tests to measure blood sugar and other clinical metrics and the diabetes checklist to help identity diabetes or prediabetes conditions.  Call us at 816-923-5800 to schedule an exam or meet with your healthcare team.

Breast Cancer Awareness – plus action!

This year’s celebration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month has a challenge for you: in addition to wearing pink to raise awareness, you are invited to also take action.

The national campaign, sponsored by the National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc., calls for support for women, especially those facing breast cancer, and encourages donations to support additional research or assistance for women on a journey to overcome breast cancer.

Swope Health welcomes you to take action, too. For example:

  • Prioritize your own health! Make an appointment with us for your breast screening. Call 816-523-5800 to schedule. The service fee is $35 (and a sliding fee scale is available).
  • Coordinate with a friend and bring her with you for her exam, too. Or encourage other women in your life to do the same.
  • Perform a self-examination and build a routine of regular self-checks. If you’re not sure how to do a self-check, talk with our clinicians when you come in for a visit.
  • Review the information to become knowledgeable of the earliest indicators of breast cancer. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a great resource on Symptoms of Breast Cancer with answers to common questions.
  • Share kindness and strength with the women around you. After all, breast cancer touches one in eight women.

The annual awareness campaign is important because each year, about 300,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed, according to the American Cancer Society. Every year, about 42,000 men and 500 men die from breast cancer, says the CDC.  And, Black women have a higher death rate from breast cancer than all other women.

Breast screenings can be lifesaving. Screenings offer a chance at early detection of breast disease or cancer, and earlier detection means better chances of treatment and recovery. That’s why having a mammogram, the screening test for breast cancer, is so important.

Swope Health performs mammograms in the radiology lab. Mammograms are low-dose X-ray scans that can identify changes in breast tissue. Most appointments take about 30 minutes.

To make an appointment, call us: 816-523-5800. 

 

Bringing Awareness to AIDS/HIV in Hispanic Communities

Oct. 15 is National LatinX AIDS Awareness Day, one in a series of special awareness days promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to bring targeted information to the Hispanic/Latino community.

Hispanic/Latino communities are disproportionally affected by HIV. According to the CDC, this is due to social and structural issues, including racism, HIV stigma, homophobia, poverty and limited access to healthcare.

What is HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This is a virus that attacks the cells that help the body fight off infection. Left untreated, the virus can lead to AIDS (which is short for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). HIV spreads through human contact and bodily fluids, most commonly during sex or injection drug use.

There are about 1.2 million people in the US with HIV, and more than 10 percent of them are not aware they have the virus. HIV can affect anyone, but people of color, especially Black and Hispanic men, continue to be disproportionally affected.

There are tactics to prevent HIV, and with proper care, even if you get HIV it can be controlled. The most important first step is to get tested for HIV.

“Swope Health encourages all people age 15 and older to get tested,” said Dr. Naiomi Jamal, Chief Health Officer. Swope Health performs HIV screening during regular physical examinations or by appointment.

“With advances in technology, we are able to offer medication that can prevent HIV,” said Dr. Jamal. Swope Health offers PrEP medication – short for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis – which can lower your risk of getting infected.

Your screening can also contribute to a national goal to achieve a 90 percent reduction in new HIV infections by 2030 – to effectively end the HIV epidemic in the United States.

“This goal is achievable if we all take steps to get tested for HIV,” said Dr. Jamal.

 

Who should be tested? All of us.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent volunteer group of national experts in preventive medicine, has championed the guideline that all persons from 15 to 65 should be tested for HIV.

The federal Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion also says EVERYONE age 15 to 65 should be tested at least once.

And people with higher risk of infection may need to be tested more often. This is recommended if you:

  • Are pregnant
  • Have sex with someone who has HIV
  • Use drugs with needles (other than prescription medications)
  • Have a sexually transmitted disease
  • Have sex in exchange for money, drugs or other items

Swope Health can help you take advantage of  PrEP medication and other preventive approaches, as well as provide linkages to care if you test positive for HIV or AIDS. There is no cure for HIV, but HIV can be managed with regular care, especially with an early diagnosis. Treatment works best when you commit to a schedule including regular medication and doctor appointments.

HIV treatment involves taking highly effective medicines called antiretroviral therapy or ART that work to control the virus. This is recommended for everyone with HIV, and people with HIV should start treatment as soon as possible after diagnosis, even on that same day. Learn more about HIV care.

End stigma of HIV

Stigma, or a negative attitude about people with HIV, is rooted in fear. It is a form of prejudice that can lead to behaviors of discrimination.

Ending stigma involves treating all people – with or without HIV – in the same way.

Since HIV can infect anyone, EVERYONE should be tested for HIV, without stigma. All of us getting tested means we have a better chance of eradicating HIV, and that’s good for all of us.

If you have questions about HIV or AIDS, Swope Health can help. Your health information is always private and confidential, and Swope Health offers PrEP.  You can make an appointment to learn more and get answers to questions about HIV testing, prevention, or care – call 816-923-5800.

Let’s Support Breastfeeding Families

August is National Breastfeeding Month, proclaimed by the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee, an independent non-profit coalition of more than 100 organizations guiding policies and practices to support breastfeeding.

Swope Health is proud to educate patients, clients, associates, and community partners on the importance of providing support to breastfeeding families. We are committed to the well-being of every person in every community we serve.

We are hosting a virtual program on “Enabling Breastfeeding: Making a Difference for Working Parents” from noon-1 pm, Thursday Aug. 31.

The program will feature information about Missouri’s breastfeeding rates, and the laws and initiatives that are designed to support lactating families.

The program can help nursing employees understand their rights in the workplace.

Hosted by Swope Health’s Women Infants and Children (WIC) Office, this event will feature presentations from two special guests:

  • Stephanie Pruess, RD, LD, IBCLC, State Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Coordinator for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, WIC and Nutrition Services; and
  • Lisa Schlientz, MPH, IBCLC, State of Missouri Breastfeeding Coordinator, who works with programs in WIC and Nutrition Services, and Maternal and Child Health.

Registration for the free virtual event is open now. Click here to sign up! (Once you’ve registered, an appointment will be sent to your e-calendar.)

Additional activities in support of Breastfeeding Month:

  • Providing “Snack Bags” to WIC pregnant and breastfeeding families (while supplies last).
  • In partnership with Healthy Blue, a benefit info session will be held 10 am to noon on August 25 at Swope Health Central. 
  • Holding two raffles during the month to provide families with items that support breastfeeding.

Ongoing breastfeeding support:

  • Nutrition and Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Staff
  • Breastfeeding warmline 816-799-1428
  • Breastpumps for WIC program participants as available
  • Quarterly breastfeeding support group, next meeting is 1 pm August 24. This is a virtual meeting on Zoom, www.us06web.zoom.us, meeting ID: 892 0503 5735

Why Breastfeeding?

The U.S. Breastfeeding Committee notes that mother’s milk is the optimal food for babies, as it plays a critical role in building and supporting an infant’s immune system. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that breastfeeding can reduce risk for certain conditions for mothers and babies.

For more information, explore these resources about breastfeeding:

World Hepatitis Day – Swope Health offers testing and treatment

July 28 is designated as World Hepatitis Day by the World Health Organization to encourage testing and treatment of Hepatitis C.  The international healthcare agency has set an ambitious goal to eliminate hepatitis by 2030.

Swope Health has taken a leadership role in Kansas City, the state of Missouri, and nationally in advocating for testing and treatment, and in establishing training, policies, and practices for other clinics with a goal of eliminating Hep C in Missouri.

 

Rachel MelsonRachel Melson, Doctor of Nursing Practice and Outreach Clinic Director, serves on the Advisory Committee for the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable and is a subject matter expert in Hepatitis C for the National Healthcare for the Homeless Council. She is a member of the state task force on Hepatitis C, and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Viral Hepatitis Stakeholders Group. As part of this group, she developed a Hepatitis C Provider “Pocket Guide” as a resource to educate providers across the state.

In the last few years, Swope Health has expanded its Hep C services to include Nurse Care Managers who support all program patients including those with high risk or additional complexity from other health issues. A nurse care manager works with each patient to create an individualized care plan to address their specific needs.

In addition, Hep C testing and access to treatment are now available from all eight Swope Health clinics – Central, Belton, Hickman Mills, Independence, Maple Woods, Northland, West and Wyandotte.

In all clinics, patients can receive a simple fingerstick test to determine exposure to the Hep C antibodies, with results in 20 minutes. If a patient tests positive for Hep C, a second lab test is ordered to confirm.

“If we find out you have Hep C, we’re going to speed line you to get treatment,” she said. “Our goal is to make it easy for you to get cured.”

The treatment for Hep C is an antiviral drug taken as a pill daily, in an eight-week or 12-week schedule. The Nurse Care Managers assist patients with all aspects of care – providing support for transportation, Medicaid access, home health needs, affordable medication, behavioral health services as well as rescheduling missed appointments or just being available for questions.

Once a patient is graduated out of Hep C care, they are still connected to primary care and related services.

“Our nurse care managers are so dedicated, so willing to go the distance and to make sure our patients get the care they need,” Rachel said. “Any obstacle, we’re going to find ways to get you connected.”

She added: “We don’t get to say ‘cured’ a lot in medicine, but with this treatment we can, and at a high success rate. So we want to get access to as many patients as possible and get them all on the path from tested to cured.”

 

Why you should care

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that there are an estimated 2.2 million people living with the disease, and many may not experience any symptoms of disease. Nearly 40 percent of people with Hep C do not know they are infected, because most people with Hep C virus don’t have symptoms or look or feel sick.

 

More than half of the individuals diagnosed with Hep C will develop chronic infection. Left untreated, Hep C can progress into chronic infection and serious lifelong illness. Hep C is the most common reason for needing a liver transplant in the United States.

 

Additionally, deaths from Hep C are highest in Black people and American Indian or Alaska natives.

The Hepatitis C virus spreads by contact with the blood of an infected person. It can be transmitted in birth, by sharing drug-injection devices, sex with an infected person or even by unregulated tattoos or piercings. If you have Hep C, you can spread it to other people even if you don’t have any symptoms.

The CDC recommends Hep C testing for everyone age 18 or older. Additionally, you should continue to get routine testing if you have Hep C risk factors, which include HIV infection, injection drug use, recent incarceration or if you are receiving dialysis.

There is no vaccination to prevent Hep C, but there is a treatment that can cure the disease. Swope Health has cured more than 350 people over the last four years.

 

What you can do

If you are unsure of your Hep C status, you can be screened at Swope Health, at any location. All adults age 18 and older should be tested at least once and continue to get routine testing if they have risk factors or conditions including HIV infection, injection drug use, recent incarceration or are receiving dialysis.

 

Anyone who has tested positive for Hepatitis C can call Swope Health for treatment – regardless of insurance coverage or ability to pay. For more information, call the Hep C Nurse at 816-321-3604.

 

Learn more:

 

Take the Test! Take the Next Step!

June 27 is National HIV Testing Day, as proclaimed by HIV.gov, an agency of the federal government, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Since 1995, the federal government has recognized this day each year to encourage everyone age 15 and up to get tested for HIV, learn your status, and get linked to care and treatment.

This annual promotion is part of a national goal to achieve a 90 percent reduction in new HIV infections by 2030 – to effectively end the HIV epidemic in the United States.

“This goal is achievable if we all take steps to get tested for HIV,” said Dr. Naiomi Jamal, Chief Health Officer for Swope Health. “Swope Health supports this national effort and encourages everyone age 15 and older to get tested. This screening is simple and can occur during your regular examination, or by appointment, at any Swope Health clinic.”

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent volunteer group of national experts in preventive medicine, has championed the guideline that all persons from 15 to 65 should be tested for HIV.

“Screening for HIV is so important because we are able to detect infection earlier, meaning we can prevent further transmission and provide linkages to the more effective treatments that are now available,” Dr. Jamal said. “This is a practical approach that makes sense for everyone and can improve the health of people nationwide.”

HIV Basics

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This is a virus that attacks the cells that help the body fight off infection. Left untreated, the virus can lead to AIDS (which is short for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). HIV spreads through human contact and bodily fluids, most commonly during sex or injection drug use.

There are about 1.2 million people in the US with HIV, and more than 10 percent of them are not aware they have the virus. HIV can affect anyone, but people of color, especially Black and Hispanic men, continue to be disproportionally affected.

HIV is preventable and treatable, which is why the federal government launched the campaign to eradicate HIV as an epidemic over the course of the next six years.

Take the Test!

Achieving the national goal starts simply – first, by increasing the number of people who are aware of their HIV status. That means encouraging more people to get tested.

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion says EVERYONE age 15 to 65 should be tested at least once. People with higher risk of infection may need to be tested more often, for example if you:

  • Are pregnant
  • Have sex with someone who has HIV
  • Use drugs with needles (other than prescription medications)
  • Have a sexually transmitted disease
  • Have sex in exchange for money, drugs or other items

Then what?

If you test negative, your healthcare provider can help you maintain your healthy status. For example, if you are in a relationship with someone with HIV, there are medications to lower your risk of also getting infected with HIV.

Learn more about preventive approaches, including PrEP. (PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis – a medicine that lessens the risk of getting HIV.)

If you test positive, your healthcare provider can help you with linkages to care, including selecting a treatment option that will work best for you. There is no cure for HIV, but HIV can be managed with regular care, especially with an early diagnosis. Treatment works best when you commit to a schedule including regular medication and doctor appointments.

Learn more about HIV care.

Do you have questions about HIV testing, prevention, or care? Swope Health is here for you. Call 816-923-5800 to make an appointment and get answers.

Pay attention to your blood pressure

Did you know this is High Blood Pressure Education Month? The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, an agency of the National Institutes of Health, encourages you to learn more about hypertension, or high blood pressure.

At Swope Health, we talk with patients about controlling high blood pressure every day, not only in May. Nationally, the federal government estimates that more than half of Americans have high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.

“We absolutely encourage all of our patients to get their blood pressure checked and talk with us about what the numbers mean,” said Dr. Naiomi Jamal, Swope Health’s Chief Health Officer. “Most importantly, if the numbers are high, we want to help you get your blood pressure under control.”

Managing high blood pressure

If your doctor recommends lowering your blood pressure, there are several steps your Swope Health care team can help you can take.

Care Managers: Swope Health’s patients in the Primary Care Health Home Program (PCHH) may be eligible for personalized assistance from a care manager. In this program, the care manager works closely with you to help manage hypertension or other chronic disease. The program is designed to help patients live healthier and provide support for the steps to do so.

Diet: Eating nutritious foods is a great way to help manage your blood pressure. This will include avoiding salty foods, as sodium can raise your blood pressure. Avoiding fatty foods and sweets and adding fruit and vegetables to your daily intake are key guidelines. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute has developed “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” or the DASH diet to offer simple tips. At Swope Health, you can consult with Priscilla Schmid, our licensed Dietitian/Nutrionist.

Priscilla earned a master’s degree in Public Health, has eight years of experience, holds more than 10 professional certificates, and is bilingual (Spanish and English). She works with patients on setting up meal plans and schedules, including tips on food buying on a limited budget and personalized nutrient needs. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment with her, please ask your Swope Health primary care provider to send a referral to Dietetic Services.

Medication: Frequently doctors will prescribe medication to lower your blood pressure, sometimes in a combination of medications taken daily. If you are on a blood pressure medication, it is important to take the medication regularly. Learn more about high blood pressure medications.  Swope Health’s care managers assist with education on medications and establishing routines for taking medication daily.

Managing your weight: Losing weight can improve high blood pressure. Doctors advise regular exercise, at least two and a half hours of movement each week, to help lower blood pressure. Walking is a great exercise, and any movement can help. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, produced by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, offers tips and suggestions for adding movement into your daily routines.

Managing stress: Research has shown that stress can increase your blood pressure. There are many ways to reduce stress, including simple deep breathing exercises, meditation, relaxing activities, yoga, and other exercises. Even getting enough sleep can help reduce stress. Counseling and therapy sessions can also help with coping mechanisms and tips you can use to reduce stress and anxiety.

If you have questions about your blood pressure, start with a visit to Swope Health. Call 816-923-5800 to schedule an appointment today.

Caring for the Women in Your Life

May 14 kicks off National Women’s Health Week, a special focus designated by the Office on Women’s Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Additionally, the National Cervical Cancer Coalition also recognizes each May as Women’s Health Month, as do other organizations focused on maternal and female health.

At this annual Mother’s Day celebration, Swope Health invites you to join us in championing healthier lives for women, starting with the women in your life. 

Swope Health provides whole-person care for girls and women, covering all aspects of a woman’s life.

“Caring for women means caring for the whole woman, remembering that women’s health is more than only reproductive health,” said Dr. Naiomi Jamal, Chief Health Officer at Swope Health. “When we think about comprehensive health care for women, we include mental health, preventive care like mammograms and cervical screening, management of chronic diseases, family planning, healthy nutrition and exercise, well-woman visits, dental care, pre-natal and post-partum care and more.”

She added: “Women’s health care is whole-person health care.”

The whole-person care approach at Swope Health includes checking on each woman’s social well-being – asking about personal safety, access to food and housing, instances of depression and anxiety, for example. These questions can highlight other elements that play a determining factor in a woman’s overall health.

When any of these answers signal a need, Swope Health’s community health workers are engaged to bring resources to assist. The resources could include transportation assistance, support with obtaining medication, help with nutrition and meals, access to counseling or therapy and even help with employment and housing. The list of services and support is long, and Swope Health’s community health workers can help patients find the best resources for each individual’s situation.

And, knowing that women are often tasked with caregiving for others in a family, Swope Health helps make scheduling and planning health care easier, coordinating appointments for family health and dental visits, for example. Swope Health also provides convenient text reminders to help manage busy schedules.

At all of Swope Health’s clinics, we provide care for women in all stages of their life: adolescence, adulthood and senior years.  Services provided are:

  • Pregnancy testing, with walk-in options, no appointment needed
  • Prenatal and postpartum care
  • Minor surgical procedures
  • Comprehensive family planning services
  • Preventive education, management and linkage to care for HIV/AIDSand other sexually transmitted diseases
  • Preventive services including mammograms, colon cancer screening, chronic disease screening and treatment
  • Cervical cancer screening and pap smears
  • Overall health assessment and management

Nationally, the annual observance of Women’s Health brings together a range of organizations focusing attention on special health topics for women:

Heart disease: Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, yet many women don’t recognize the symptoms, which can differ from symptoms in men. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention promotes a program called WISEWOMAN to prevent stroke and heart disease through integrated screening and evaluation for women.

Osteoporosis: This is a disease that causes bones to become weak and break easily. Osteoporosis affects mostly older women, but it is a disease that can be prevented with early action. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month in May annually.

Women’s Check-up Day: The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion of the Department of Health and Human Services names May 18 at National Women’s Check-up Day. It’s a reminder for women to schedule an annual well-woman visit.

Menstrual Hygiene Day: Nearly a thousand regional, national, and international organizations have joined forces to end the stigma of periods, using May 28 as a day to make menstruation a normal fact of life. The goal is to raise awareness about menstruation and create a world where no one is ever held back because of menstruation.

World No-Tobacco Day: The National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute champion May 31 as the international day to focus on ending tobacco use. A special focus highlights Smokefree Women, which offers a variety of tools to help women plan ways to end tobacco use with medications, counseling, apps and other resources.

Be a champion for women: encourage the women in your life to schedule an annual check-up with Swope Health for comprehensive whole-person care. Call 816-923-5800 to make an appointment.

 

 

Hep C Testing and Treatment: Be aware

With the month of May rapidly approaching, Swope Health asks you to take a pause from your usual springtime activities to get tested for Hepatitis C.

May is the month designated for Hep C Awareness by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here are some important things to know about Hep C:

  • The Hepatitis C virus is one of the most significant health problems affecting the liver. More than half of the individuals diagnosed with Hep C will develop chronic infection. Hep C is the most common reason for needing a liver transplant in the United States.
  • There are an estimated 2.2 million people living with the disease, and many may not experience any symptoms of disease. Nearly 40 percent of people with Hep C do not know they are infected.
  • Baby boomers (born between 1945 – 1965) make up about 75 percent of those positive for the virus.
  • Deaths from Hep C are highest in Black people and American Indian or Alaska natives.

Swope Health offers Hep C testing, which the CDC recommends for everyone age 18 or older. Additionally, you should continue to get routine testing if you have Hep C risk factors, which include HIV infection, injection drug use, recent incarceration or if you are receiving dialysis.

The Hepatitis C virus spreads by contact with the blood of an infected person. It can be transmitted in birth, by sharing drug-injection devices, sex with an infected person or even by unregulated tattoos or piercings.

Most people infected with Hep C virus don’t have symptoms or look or feel sick. If you have Hep C, you can spread it to other people even if you don’t have any symptoms.

There is no vaccination to prevent Hep C, but there is a treatment that can cure the disease. Swope Health is a leader in delivering Hep C treatment and has cured more than 300 people over the last four years.

In 2019, Swope Health launched a program for Hepatitis C Treatment. Led by Rachel Melson, Doctor of Nursing Practice and Outreach Clinic Director, this program focused on increasing testing for Hep C, and helping those with Hep C obtain treatment. She serves on the Advisory Committee for the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable and is a subject matter expert in Hepatitis C for the National Healthcare for the Homeless Council.

The current treatment is an antiviral drug, a pill that is taken once a day for 8-12 weeks. These antiviral drugs are more than 90 percent effective in curing the disease. “Cured” means the patient has no active Hep C virus in the body three months after finishing the treatment.

The current program offers nurse care management to support patients with high risk or additional complexity from other health issues. A nurse care manager works with each patient in an individual plan to address their specific needs.

“We rarely get to use the word ‘cure’ in medicine,” she said. “But this is such an effective treatment that we have actually been able to cure Hepatitis C. And we could see it eradicated in our lifetimes.”

 

Hepatitis C and YOU

Anyone who has tested positive for Hepatitis C can call Swope Health to participate in the program – regardless of insurance coverage or ability to pay. For more information, call the Hep C Nurse at 816-321-3604.

If you are unsure of your Hep C status, you can ask to be screened at Swope Health. All adults age 18 and older should be tested at least once and continue to get routine testing if they have risk factors or conditions including HIV infection, injection drug use, recent incarceration or are receiving dialysis.

 

The ABCs of Hepatitis

The CDC offers explanations of the primary types of viral hepatitis: A, B and C.

 

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver infection, caused by the Hepatitis A virus. The virus can make you sick, and you can spread the virus. There is a vaccination for Hepatitis A, and numbers of cases have declined dramatically. People who are at the greatest risk of Hepatitis A are those who use drugs, experience homelessness, have liver disease, or are or recently were in jail. In addition, men who have sex with men are also at risk.

 

Hepatitis B is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis B virus. People who are infected can have lifelong infection, and over time, the disease can cause serious liver damage or cancer. Hepatitis B is preventable with a vaccine, which is recommended for all infants at birth. This disease is most common in Asia, the Pacific Islands and Africa.

 

Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis C virus. Most people who are infected will have lifelong infection, which can cause serious problems including liver disease or liver failure, or cancer. This disease spreads through contact with blood from an infected person. Most people become infected by sharing needles or syringes in injected drug use. There may not be symptoms of disease. There are an estimated 2.4 million people living with the disease, and many may not know they are infected as they may not have symptoms. Baby boomers (born between 1945 – 1965) make up about 75 percent of those positive for the virus.