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.

March 28 is Diabetes Alert Day

March 28 is the American Diabetes Alert Day, as named by the American Diabetes Association.

It’s a day to share information about the symptoms and the health risks of diabetes. Swope Health supports this effort, because for us, diabetes prevention, education and treatment are part of our daily work.

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood sugar (or glucose) is too high. Normally your body regulates glucose by producing insulin, which helps glucose get converted into energy in your cells. When your body doesn’t make enough insulin or when your cells become resistant to insulin, the glucose, which comes from the foods you eat, can’t be converted into energy.

There’s no cure for diabetes, but it can be managed and even prevented.

Swope Health launched an innovative program focusing on diabetes prevention and treatment in 2018. The program, piloted at Swope Health Independence, provided a diabetes checklist used with every patient to look for early signs of diabetes-related complications. As the primary diabetes-related issues are kidney disease, blindness and amputations, patients were asked to complete lab tests to evaluate kidney function, have a vision screening, and receive a foot exam at least once a year.

The vision screening occurs on-site, during the patient’s regular visit, using a hand-held device that sends images to an optometrist for review. Patients don’t need to schedule a separate visit to an optometrist.

The focused diabetes checklist is now in use at all Swope Health clinics, said Dr. Naiomi Jamal, Chief Health Officer at Swope Health. In addition, if any uninsured patients have uncontrolled diabetes, Swope Health provides extra support through an assigned Nurse Care Manager.

The Nurse Care Manager checks in regularly with the patient, and provides support for any questions about medications, diet or exercise. In addition, the Nurse Care Manager identifies any issues that might serve as barriers to good health, including other medical needs, lack of access to fresh foods or transportation, and behavioral health challenges. Similar services are offered to Medicaid patients with uncontrolled diabetes through Swope Health’s Primary Care Medical Home program

“The Nurse Care Manager develops specific care plans with each patient,” Dr. Jamal said. “We help our patients set goals and achieve them.”

The program offers promising results in diabetes management: “We tend to have better outcomes with the personalized care of the Nurse Care Manager,” she said.

Diabetes affects more than 9 percent of the population, according to the National Institutes of Health, an agency of the federal government. It affects one in four people over age 65, and often individuals are unaware they have the disease. Left untreated, diabetes can cause serious health problems including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, eye problems, foot problems, dental disease and nerve damage.

Additionally, more than one in three adults in the U.S. have prediabetes – and most are likely unaware of it. Prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a serious condition when blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Diabetes can be prevented or delayed through lifestyle changes like improving diet, increasing physical activity and stopping smoking.

The state of Missouri’s 2023 Diabetes Report shows that more than 537,000 Missouri residents, age 18 or older, had doctor-diagnosed diabetes in 2021. That’s about 11 percent of the state population. Based on national estimates of undiagnosed diabetes in 3.4 percent of adults, that means there are likely 160,000 Missourians with diabetes who don’t know it.

The report also shows that Jackson County is in the top 25 percent of counties statewide with diabetes.

What can you do for American Diabetes Day? Take a moment to check in with those you love and encourage them to learn about diabetes, through a doctor’s visit that includes a screening. If you are aware of your risk level, you can start to take action to prevent further risk.

Diabetes is often a risk factor for other diseases, including chronic kidney disease and heart disease. Managing your risk starts with being aware.


Call 816-923-5800 to make an appointment at Swope Health. We are here to help you prevent and manage health issues.

Do you know about Colorectal Cancer?

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, as designated by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, and in the United States, by the national Colorectal Cancer Alliance.


The month is observed to highlight the importance of screening for colorectal cancer, which is the third most common type of cancer worldwide. It also is the second most common cause of cancer death.


Yet colorectal cancer can be prevented or detected with screenings. The most effective treatments for colorectal cancer occur when it is found in early stages.


At Swope Health, our physicians recommend colorectal cancer screenings starting at age 45, or earlier if you have a family history of the disease. The key to know: EVERYONE – all men and women – should be screened.


“When you meet with a doctor at Swope Health, we always ask about your medical and social history,” said Dr. Naiomi Jamal, Chief Health Officer. “This helps us evaluate your risks for the disease. We want to manage the risks and help prevent disease, that’s why we encourage screening for everyone starting at age 45, sooner if there is a family history.”


You should know colorectal cancer is increasingly appearing at earlier ages, although scientists are not certain why this is happening. The rates of colorectal cancer in people under age 50 have increased 2.2 percent each year from 2007 to 2016. In 2019, 20 percent of colorectal cancer diagnoses were in people younger than 55, says the American Cancer Society.

The National Cancer Institute is researching many factors to understand more about colorectal cancer and current trends. Those factors include diet, obesity, bacterial toxins, and environmental chemicals.


Healthy lifestyle choices can decrease the risk of colorectal cancer.  Some of the best behaviors you can adopt are the same ones you frequently hear from healthcare professionals – avoiding alcohol and smoking, maintaining a regular exercise routine, and eating nutritious foods to maintain a healthy weight.


What is colorectal cancer?


Colorectal cancer refers to cancers of the colon or rectum, which are parts of the digestive system. Sometimes abnormal growths, called polyps, form in the intestine or bowel and over time some may turn into cancer, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


According to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance: Colorectal cancer can develop silently, so there may be no symptoms until it has advanced to later, and more deadly, stages. Symptoms to look for include a change in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, abdominal discomfort, weakness and/or fatigue and unexplained weight loss.


If you experience any of these symptoms, you should talk with a healthcare provider.


When do I get screened?


Your personal history and your risk factors will determine when you should start getting checked. For most people, it’s at age 45.


If you have risk factors, you may need earlier screening. For example, if you have had cancer, ulcerative colitis or inflammatory bowel disease, or have a family history of colorectal cancer, you should be screened earlier. African Americans are 20 percent more likely to have colorectal cancer, and the highest death rates from colorectal cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.


How do I get screened for colorectal cancer?


There are several types of screenings, from at-home test kits to a colonoscopy, which is a procedure involving the examination of the interior of the colon. The colonoscopy requires a day of advance preparation, including no solid foods the day before and only clear liquids. It may also require a laxative to clear out your stomach and bowels.


Your doctor can discuss which option is right for you, based on your age and other factors.


Would you like more information about colorectal cancer and screenings? Call Swope Health and make an appointment: 816-923-5800. You can also download a PDF from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Are you kidney smart?

The National Institutes of Health says March is National Kidney Month, a time to learn about kidney disease.

Why should you care? To start, chronic kidney disease affects more than one person in seven in the U.S. That’s more than 37 million people in the United States.

If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease, you are at higher risk for kidney disease. And diabetes and high blood pressure are the two leading causes of kidney failure.

Kidney failure affects African Americans more than any other group.

The close connection between diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease is a reason Swope Health encourages your attention.

“When you visit Swope Health, we check on your current health conditions and we also want to understand your past medical and social history,” said Dr. Naiomi Jamal, Chief Health Officer. “We do this to help you manage potential risks.”

Dr. Jamal continued: “Knowing the risk is the first step in managing the risk.”

What do I need to know? After reviewing your family history, if you have a potential risk, your doctor may want to take tests for more information. A test may also be needed if you are over 60 and have diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease.  The tests use urine and blood samples to screen for kidney disease.

Kidney disease, like many other diseases, does not always have visible symptoms in its early stages. You might have the disease without knowing it.

What if I’m at risk? Testing is the first step. If you find you do have early symptoms, your doctor can help with a treatment plan.

Treatment may involve lifestyle changes, like a specially designed diet or quitting smoking. Kidney disease continues to progress, but you and your doctor can build a plan to slow the disease. The top 10 steps for managing kidney disease:

Ten ways to manage kidney disease

Source: The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

  1. Control your blood pressure
  2. Meet your blood glucose goal if you have diabetes
  3. Work with your health care team to monitor your kidney health
  4. Take medicines as prescribed
  5. Work with a dietitian to develop a meal plan
  6. Make physical activity part of your routine
  7. Aim for a healthy weight
  8. Get enough sleep
  9. Stop smoking
  10. Find healthy ways to cope with stress and depression

Some people live for years with the disease under control, but sometimes the disease progresses and causes kidney failure. This means the kidneys no longer are able to function in removing waste from the body.

With kidney failure, patients may need to undergo a treatment called dialysis, which filters waste and water outside the body. Another option is a kidney transplant, an operation in which the failed kidney is removed and replaced with a healthy kidney from a donor.

What else can I do? If you are at risk for kidney disease, you can get tested regularly. Early detection can help prevent the disease from progressing to kidney failure.

If you are at a higher risk for kidney disease, you can share the information with your family so they too can check their own status and take steps to prevent the disease from progressing. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease offers a guide on having conversations with your family to learn about history and look out for each other.

You can also work with your healthcare provider to build out a plan for healthy living. Such a plan may include prescribed medications, a lean and low-salt diet, physical activity and weight management, as well as tips on sleeping, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol and managing stress.

For more information on chronic kidney disease, explore:

If you have questions about your kidney health, please make an appointment with your doctor. Call us to schedule at 816-923-5800.

Live to the Beat! Time to Learn about Heart Health

February is the month for Valentines, symbolized by big red hearts.

It’s also a good time to think about your own heart, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which supports the White House proclamation of February as American Heart Month.

At Swope Health, we encourage all patients to be aware of heart disease, which is recognized as a leading cause of death in the US, claiming 700,000 lives a year. It also is the No. 1 cause of death in women, causing one in three deaths each year, and the leading cause of death for Black and Hispanic people.


Heart disease refers to several types of conditions, including coronary artery disease – the buildup that lessens the flow of blood to the heart, which can cause a heart attack. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking are key factors that increase the risk of heart disease. Other factors include diabetes, being overweight, an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise and excessive alcohol use.

These conditions – especially high blood pressure and diabetes– disproportionately affect people of color. High blood pressure is more common in Black Americans than any other race or ethnic group, and, and it develops earlier in life. Black adults are nearly twice as likely as white adults to develop diabetes. Highlighting these racial disparities is an important part of Swope Health’s educational campaign to raise awareness and promote health equity.

“I want all our patients, and especially women and people of color, to understand the risks and take action to prevent heart disease or stroke with smart and healthy decisions about self-care, exercise, and food,” says Dr. Naiomi Jamal, Chief Health Officer at Swope Health.

“Heart disease is sometimes called a ‘silent killer,’ because not everyone with the disease has symptoms,” she noted. “Many women don’t recognize how common heart disease is, even though it kills more women than all types of cancer combined.”

It is especially important for Black women to be aware, as the disease disproportionally impacts Black women. According to the American Heart Association, among Black women ages 20 and up, nearly 59 percent have a cardiovascular or heart disease. Additionally, since 1984, more women than men have died from heart disease, and the gap has been growing every year.

Part of the reason may be because the symptoms of heart disease can be different between men and women. Since most medical research has historically focused on white men, the differences in symptoms are often misunderstood in women and communities of color.

For example, the most common symptom of a heart attack in men is pain, pressure, or discomfort in the chest. But women may not have chest pain or may experience the pain differently. For women, the most common heart attack symptoms are:

  • Pain in the neck, jaw, shoulder, or upper back
  • Pain in one or both arms
  • Upper belly discomfort, heartburn
  • Shortness of breath, unusual fatigue, lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting

The risks of heart disease are serious for Black people, who, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, are 30 percent more likely to die from heart disease than non-Hispanic white people. And, although Black adults are 40 percent more likely to have high blood pressure, they are less likely than white adults to have their blood pressure under control.

There are ways to fight against the risks, however, starting with a visit with your provider, notes Dr. Jamal. At Swope Health, you’ll have a team of healthcare professionals ready to guide you through healthy options.

“We can help you take steps, starting right away, to reduce your risks of heart disease,” said Dr. Jamal.  “When you come in for a checkup, we assess your overall health and use a team-based approach to help you with healthy choices.”

In a checkup, your provider will measure your blood pressure, height and weight, and there may be other screenings, like for cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Your provider can help with steps including managing blood pressure, controlling cholesterol, reducing blood sugar, being more active, eating better, losing weight and stopping smoking.


Swope Health’s care team also includes a licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist who can help with setting up meal plans and schedules, including tips on food buying on a limited budget and personalized nutrient needs.


Start your heart health journey today – call 816-923-5800 to schedule an appointment for a checkup with Swope Health.


Heart-healthy steps you can take

From the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association developed a guide called  “Life’s Essential 8,” on the eight key measures for improving heart health to lower your risk of heart disease, stroke and other major health problems.


1. Eat Better

Aim for an overall healthy eating pattern that includes whole foods, lots of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, nuts, seeds, and cooking in non-tropical oils such as olive and canola.

2. Be More Active

Adults should get 2 ½ hours of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week. Kids should have 60 minutes every day, including play and structured activities.

3. Quit Tobacco

Use of inhaled nicotine delivery products, which includes traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes and vaping, is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., including about a third of all deaths from heart disease. And about a third of U.S. children ages 3-11 are exposed to secondhand smoke or vaping.

4. Get Healthy Sleep

Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Children require more: 10-16 hours for ages 5 and younger, including naps; 9-12 hours for ages 6-12; and 8-10 hours for ages 13-18. Adequate sleep promotes healing, improves brain function and reduces the risk for chronic diseases.

5. Manage Weight

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight has many benefits. Body mass index, a numerical value of your weight in relation to your height, is a useful gauge. Optimal BMI is 25. You can calculate it online or consult a health care professional.

6. Control Cholesterol

High levels of non-HDL, or “bad,” cholesterol can lead to heart disease. Your health care professional can consider non-HDL cholesterol as the preferred number to monitor, rather than total cholesterol, because it can be measured without fasting beforehand and is reliably calculated among all people.

7. Manage Blood Sugar

Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose (or blood sugar) that our bodies use as energy. Over time, high levels of blood sugar can damage your heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves. As part of testing, monitoring hemoglobin A1c can better reflect long-term control in people with diabetes or prediabetes.

8. Manage Blood Pressure

Keeping your blood pressure within acceptable ranges can keep you healthier longer.

Swope Health Provides Hep C Leadership: Show Me the Cure

Rachel Melson

Swope Health played a role in this month’s launch of “Show Me the Cure,” a statewide plan to eliminate hepatitis C. The plan was unveiled at a May 19 event in Jefferson City by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

The plan calls for universal testing, treatment, improving outcomes for people living with Hepatitis C, and preventing new infections.

Rachel Melson, Doctor of Nursing Practice and Outreach Clinic Director, began a similar program at Swope Health in 2019, which produced remarkable results: more than 210 patients cured of the disease in just three years.

She was named to the state task force on Hepatitis C and she participates in 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 other healthcare providers to increase the availability of treatment across the state for Hepatitis C.

The pocket guide has been endorsed by the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable, the National Healthcare for the Homeless Council, MOHealthnet’s Project HepCURE, and the Mid-America Addiction Technology Center.

The pocket guide includes clinical guidelines for Hepatitis C testing and treatment, medication coverage assistance, provider clinical support, and education and resources on overdose prevention and harm reduction.

As part of the Missouri stakeholders group, Dr. Melson provides guidance to other clinicians in the state who are starting to treat Hepatitis C as a clinical expert through the Show-Me ECHO platform. Nationally, she has been recognized as a Subject Matter Expert in Hepatitis C for the National Healthcare for the Homeless Council.

“I’m proud of the role Swope Health has played in the statewide effort,” she said. “Our goal is to ensure everyone has access to testing and treatment for Hepatitis C, and ultimately, to end Hepatitis C.”


What is Hepatitis 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, while the other half may experience acute infection that may spontaneously clear.

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

Hepatitis A and B are viral infections in the liver. Because of vaccine availability, numbers of cases of Hepatitis A and B have declined dramatically. Because Hepatitis B can become a lifelong infection causing serious liver damage or cancer, vaccination is recommended for all infants at birth. Hepatitis A infections are usually self-limiting without long-term complications and vaccination is recommended based on risk.  If you are unsure of your risk or if you are unaware of your vaccination status, discuss vaccination for Hepatitis A and B with your healthcare provider.

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. 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.

This disease spreads through contact with blood from an infected person. Most people become infected by sharing needles or syringes in injected drug use. However, it is possible to get Hepatitis C in other ways such as: unprotected sex, sharing personal items like toothbrushes or razors, and unregulated tattoos or body piercings.

Currently, there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C. But there is a CURE.

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.


“Show Me the Cure”

“Missouri’s hepatitis C plan provides a roadmap for the state to use to eliminate hepatitis C. This plan was developed in collaboration with diverse partners from across the state, which was essential for ensuring that the needs of Missourians were addressed in the plan,” according to a statement from Alicia Jenkins, Chief of the Missouri Department of Health and Social Services’ Bureau of HIV, STD, and Hepatitis.

The “Show Me the Cure” plan focuses on access to services, provider development, education, collaboration and awareness, surveillance, and policy and advocacy.

Access to Services

  • Increase the proportion of people who are tested and aware of their hepatitis C status.
  • Develop linkage to care for confirmatory testing and treatment.

Provider Development

  • Increase the number of health care providers who are trained to identify, diagnose and treat people with hepatitis C.

Education, Collaboration and Awareness

  • Increase awareness of testing and treatment for people living with hepatitis C.
  • Educate Missourians on health equity, stigma, and cultural humility regarding hepatitis C.


  • Evaluate the current hepatitis C surveillance system.
  • Improve the quality and completeness of hepatitis C data, including improved demographics and risk factor data reporting.
  • Routinely analyze, disseminate findings and utilize hepatitis C data to develop and improve testing and linkage to care programs.
  • Identify data resources and collaborate with other organizations to compile information regarding HCV populations.

Policy and Advocacy

  • Increase awareness of services for patients, and increase opportunities for advocacy.
  • Increase awareness regarding policies and laws that create barriers to hepatitis C testing and treatment.
  • Encourage and promote hepatitis C universal screening in primary care and other settings that provide services to those at highest risk.

The plan was developed in collaboration with MO HealthNet, Missouri Department of Corrections, Missouri Department of Mental Health, Hep C Alliance, Missouri Telehealth Network & Show-Me ECHO, St. Louis County Department of Public Health, City of St. Louis Department of Health, AIDS Project of the Ozarks, Missouri Primary Care Association, Swope Health, Washington University – Project ARK, KC Care Health Center, Clay County Public Health Center, CoxHealth, Missouri Rural Health Association and AbbVie.



Feb. 19 Free COVID-19 Vaccinations

Swope Health invites you to join us at a free COVID-19 vaccination event 10 am – 2 pm Saturday, Feb. 19 the DeLaSalle Education Center, 3737 Troost Ave., Kansas City, Missouri.

The event is open to all — students, family and the community of DeLaSalle. COVID-19 vaccinations will be available for individuals age 5 and up; those under 18 must have parent or guardian present.

Booster vaccinations will also be available. Boosters are recommended five months after your primary vaccine dose(s).  Please remember to bring your vaccination card.

Join us!

Join us: Panel on Chronic Kidney Disease

In advance of National Kidney Month in March, Swope Health will participate in a free online program to raise awareness about the risks of chronic kidney disease.

The virtual meeting will be 6 pm Tuesday, Jan. 25 via Zoom. Register for this event:…/tZMkduyopj4iE9XAchC0…

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

The event is a Black K.A.R.E. (Kidney Awareness Resources and Education) forum sponsored by the Jackson County (MO) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, in partnership with Swope Health.

The event will feature Dr. Naiomi Jamal, Chief Quality Officer at Swope Health, as well as a patient living with chronic kidney disease. Michael Williams will share information about his diagnosis and experience living with the disease, as well as offer guidance for others who’ve just learned of the disease.

“Take it seriously, from the start,” he said. “I’m just now getting a new lease on it because I’m trying to do things differently. Learning about it all – it woke me.”

This panel discussion is designed to raise awareness and provide education that will improve the health of those in our community diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. It will also provide useful information for family and friends who serve as caregivers for individuals with chronic kidney disease.

Additional participants in the panel:

  • Moderator, Dr. Camille Honesty, hospitalist
  • Christie Gooden-Magee, kidney transplant specialist
  • Cheryl Kapalka, nutrition dietitian

Chronic kidney disease affects 37 million Americans, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. African-Americans are three times more likely to experience kidney failure than white Americans. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the two leading causes of kidney disease.