What You Need To Know About Flu Season

Time to get your flu shot

It’s that time of year: kids are back in school, leaves are changing colors and starting to fall, and the flu will soon be circulating in our community.

It is flu season, and that means it is time for your annual flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a flu shot for everyone age six months and older. To assure you are protected during peak flu season, typically from December to February, the CDC suggests you receive your vaccination as soon as possible.

At Swope Health, getting a flu shot has never been easier.

Flu Vaccine Prep

Julie Richards, Director of Infection Control and Prevention, prepares an injection for a flu vaccination at Swope Health. She encourages everyone to get a flu shot to help prevent the spread of the flu.

“Call or come in,” said Julie Richards, Director of Infection Control and Prevention. “If you’ve been seen by a medical provider at Swope Health in the last year, you can call and ask for a Nurse-only visit to get a flu shot.”

You can also get a flu shot during an appointment with a Provider, whether scheduled or walk-in. To schedule an appointment, call 816-923-5800.

The CDC says the flu sickens millions of Americans every year and sends hundreds of thousands of people to the hospital. The National Foundation for Infectious Disease says it affects 5 to 20 percent of the nation’s population annually, and tens of thousands die from the flu and related complications.

The flu vaccination can keep you from getting the flu and help prevent the spread of the illness.

While getting a flu vaccination is your best way to prevent the spread of the flu, you should take other steps too, said Julie.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Wash your hands frequently, using soap and water. If soap isn’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Try to avoid spreading germs when you cough or sneeze. Cover your nose and mouth with your elbow or use tissues. If you are using tissues, throw them away after use and wash your hands. Also, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • If you have a fever, stay home from school or work for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. Limit your contact with other people to prevent spreading the illness.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces – doorknobs, sinks, keyboards, mobile devices, etc.

And if you do get the flu, talk or visit with your healthcare provider. You may be a candidate for antiviral prescription medication that may prevent complications or lessen the impact of the sickness.

Julie notes the flu vaccine will be available throughout the flu season, which, according to the CDC, can extend to May. “High numbers of cases can still occur in the springtime,” she said. “It’s never too late to get vaccinated in the flu season.”

Trauma-Informed Care Techniques… Because we care.

Trauma-Informed Care Techniques

From left, Alicia Johnson, Residential Supervisor; Candice Owen, Residential Qualified Mental Health Professional; Chris Williams, Training and Development Specialist; and Carla Lee, Patient Community and Education Specialist, welcome Swope Health associates to the “Peaceful Pause.”

At Swope Health, associates use trauma-informed care techniques to offer support and coping skills to help people who feel depressed, frightened, angry, helpless, overwhelmed or stressed.

“Trauma-informed care is an awareness that everyone experiences trauma in their lives, in some way or another,” said Laurie Cox, Director of Integrated Recovery Services. “We understand that trauma can take a variety of forms and can cause a variety of responses. We recognize how common trauma is and we know that anyone who’s experienced trauma needs support and understanding.”

We See Trauma

All too frequently, associates at Swope Health see clients facing trauma, involving physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse or neglect. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate about one in seven children will experience abuse each year, and the number increases for children in lower socioeconomic status.

Additionally, the CDC notes that one in four women experiences domestic violence, and one in five women experiences rape.

Trauma Reactions

Trauma-Informed Care

D’Ambra Baker, Behavioral Health Consultant-Outreach, was on hand to explain how seeing through different colored lenses can stimulate different types of energy.

Reactions to trauma can vary widely. Some people may withdraw or feel depressed while others may respond with anger or violence. Recognizing the range of reactions is part of understanding trauma and providing care, Laurie said.

“We are here to help you manage your mental health and learn good strong coping skills,” she said.

Trauma Transformers

With that awareness, Swope Health has formed a team called the “Trauma Transformers” to use the techniques of trauma-informed care with the community and associates.

“We all need self-care,” said Carla Lee, Patient Community and Education Specialist and one of the Trauma Transformers leaders. “If we are not healthy mentally, physically, emotionally or spiritually, we will not be able to help others be successful.”

Peaceful Pause

D’Ambra Baker, Behavioral Health Consultant-Outreach, was on hand to explain how seeing through different colored lenses can stimulate different types of energy

Play therapy included hands-on activities, like solving the Rubik’s cube puzzle.

To demonstrate self-care at Swope Health, the Trauma Transformers host periodic events and activities for associates. In May, the team sponsored a “Peaceful Pause” – relaxation stations set up to allow associates to take a break from their work to achieve a moment of peace and mindfulness. The event used color therapy, aromatherapy, play therapy and coloring stations for associates to explore. Associates also were treated to healthy snacks– reminders of the importance of physical health, too.

More than 70 associates took advantage of the peaceful pause, which featured soothing music and soft lighting during the two-hour event.  Some wore colored sunglasses to experience differing energy levels while reading inspirational notes; others experimented with the sensations caused by a variety of aromatic oils.

“We want you to know that we care about you, and we want you to take care of yourself, too,” Carla said.

Every day, someone feels depressed, frightened, angry or helpless. Every day, Swope Health stands ready to offer assessments, treatment, support and coping skills. You can visit or call the Behavioral Health team at (816) 922-1070 for an appointment.


Have a Healthy Heart!

In this month when hearts are the decoration everywhere for Valentine’s Day, it is a good idea to think about your own heart.

After all, February is “American Heart Month,” a designation sponsored by the American Heart Association. According to Healthfinder.gov, heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for men and women in the United States. Heart disease is responsible for one of every four deaths – but there are steps you can take to prevent heart disease.

Justin Swartz

Nurse Practitioner Justin Swartz from Truman Medical Centers staffs the Specialty Clinic at Swope Health.

At Swope Health, we take part in Heart Month by encouraging you to make healthy choices and manage your health to prevent heart disease. In coordination with Truman Medical Center,
Swope Health offers cardiology services in our Specialty Clinic, where Truman Nurse Practitioner Justin Swartz is all about preventive care for a healthy heart.

“Most of what I do is clean up after a heart episode has occurred,” said Justin. “But, ideally, if patients pay attention to the big five preventative steps they can avoid heart issues.”

The big five:

  1. Blood pressure control:  Keep that top number less than 100 and the bottom number less than 80.
  2. Cholesterol control:  Keep the LDL (the bad one) less than 100 and the HDL (the good one) greater than 45.
  3. Blood sugar control:  Justin likes the A1C test.  It is an average of your blood sugar levels over a three-month period.  You want that number to be less than 5.5.
  4. Tobacco control:  Smoking is linked to many heart ailments.  Just stay away from it or do everything in your power to quit.
  5. Fitness control:  You have to be active – walk, run, do yoga, bike, dance, swim – ANY physical activity will be a benefit to your heart.

28 days to a Healthy Heart

If you are not sure about your numbers, that is a good reason to find out. Make an appointment with your provider for a check-up to learn about your current health and ask about recommendations to improve your heart health.

Once you learn about heart health, we hope you will spread the word to your family, friends and everyone you love. Join us in providing encouragement to quit smoking, manage high blood pressure, add exercise to every day’s routine and make healthy food choices.

Call us at 816-923-5800 to schedule an appointment and take steps toward a healthier heart. 

Additional Resources:

Healthy Heart

We are Greater than HIV/Aids

National Black HIV/Aids Awareness DayFeb. 7, 2019, is the National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day – a day dedicated to outreach and education about the disproportionate impact HIV and AIDS has among African Americans.

Swope Health, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wants you to have an opportunity to get tested for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Autoimmune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

Swope Health offers HIV/AIDS testing as part of routine healthcare. On Feb. 7, we will have a special table set up in the lobby at Swope Health Central to talk with clients and encourage testing.

“We recommend HIV/AIDS tests for everyone – adolescents and adults,” said Dr. Kenneth Thomas, Chief Medical Officer at Swope Health. “Once you know your status, you have the power to take steps to improve your health. Plus you help us prevent the spread of the disease.”

According to the CDC, in the United States, about 1.2 million people have HIV, and a disproportionately high number of that total – 40 percent – are African Americans. Further, about 14 percent of people with HIV are unaware they have the disease.

People infected with HIV can unknowingly spread the disease to partners and may need medical care for their own health. That is why testing is so important.

There are several types of tests available, but the most common examines a sample of blood for the presence of antigens or antibodies as a reaction to the virus. Most labs offer this routine test, or a rapid-screening version.

At Swope Health, if your test comes back negative, you can be confident you do not have HIV. If the rapid test is positive for antibodies, Swope Health providers recommend a confirmatory lab test to verify. With a positive test, your provider will talk with you about treatment options and will refer you to our partners at KC Care Health Clinic.

National Black HIV/Aids Awareness Day

Additional Resources:

November is Diabetes Awareness Month

Linda Allen

Linda Allen

November is Diabetes Awareness Month, as designated by the American Diabetes Association, to raise awareness of diabetes, which affects one person in 11.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 30 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, and one in four don’t know they have it.

Linda Allen, a patient at Swope Health Services, was one of those people. She didn’t realize the cause of her poor health until she was diagnosed with diabetes during a checkup. That changed everything.

“I feel much better,” she said. “I feel cared for and healthy, and that’s very important to me because diabetes can wear you down.”

Diabetes, as Linda learned, is a chronic disease that affects how your body turns food into energy. According to the CDC, most of the food you eat is broken down into sugar (called glucose) and released into your bloodstream.

Your body makes insulin, which acts like a key to let the blood sugar into your body’s cells for use as energy. But if you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make insulin or can’t use the insulin it makes.

When there isn’t enough insulin or cells stop responding to insulin, too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream, and, over time, this can cause serious health problems including kidney disease, vision loss, and limb amputation.

Diabetes is the No. 1 cause of kidney failure and the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.

diabetesLinda now manages her diabetes and maintains a healthy diet.

“There are different things you have to know about in diabetes – like what’s got sugar in it, what’s got carbohydrates in it, what will cause your blood sugar to go up or down,” she said.

“By education through Swope Health, I have found out how to take good care of myself,” she continued. “I no longer eat excess sugar and candy and excess cakes – it doesn’t mean you can’t have any of that, you just have to learn how to have the right amount.”

Symptoms of diabetes include feeling fatigued, thirsty or hungry, urinating frequently, and having blurry vision.

Type 2 Diabetes, which affects 90 percent of people diagnosed with diabetes, is more common in African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders. Higher body weight increases diabetes risk for everyone.

In this month of diabetes awareness, it’s a good time to make an appointment for an examination. Call 816-923-5800 to schedule an appointment. SHS can help prevent diabetes in some cases, and if you have diabetes we can help with medication and education, including nutrition guidance, to lessen its impact on your life.

Independence Clinic launches full-team initiative to tackle diabetes

Dr. Naiomi Jamal

Dr. Naiomi Jamal

The staff at Swope Health Services-Independence has launched an all-hands-on-deck initiative to identify diabetes in their patients, help manage the chronic disease, and most importantly, work to prevent it.

The program is the brainchild of Dr. Naiomi Jamal, who holds both a medical degree and Master’s degree in public health.

“I am always focused on prevention,” said Dr. Jamal, noting that the clinic serves a high number of patients with hypertension, obesity and diabetes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 30 million people in the U.S. have diabetes. Diabetes is the No. 7 cause of death, and the No. 1 cause of kidney disease, limb amputation and blindness, Dr. Jamal said.

In addition, one in three people have pre-diabetes, and 90 percent of them do not know they are at risk, she said.

“To a large part, diabetes is preventable,” she said. “We are working to create an environment to do that.”

The initiative at the Independence clinic begins with a specific diabetes checklist used with every patient to look for early signs of those three dominant diabetes-related issues: kidney disease, limb amputation and blindness. At least once a year, all patients are asked to complete lab tests to evaluate kidney function and receive a foot screening.

toolkit_badge_NovDiabetics are also predisposed to infections such as pneumonia and influenza. Their vaccination status for both these conditions is updated and monitored at every visit.

Starting in November, the clinic will add one more exam: an annual eye test to capture images of each patient’s retina. Those images are then examined by an optometrist for abnormalities linked to diabetes.

“In every visit, we try to make sure we are not missing anything,” said Dr. Jamal.

A second component of the initiative is counseling. In addition to medical treatment, patients are offered personal sessions with a chronic disease counselor and group visits with a trained and certified diabetes educator.

These small group sessions – 10 or fewer patients and their family members – are held every six to eight weeks at the Independence clinic. Topics include a detailed explanation of diabetes, insulin and medications, and steps to take to better control diabetes with diet and exercise.

Dr. Jamal has seen the group sessions produce results. She recalled one patient who had been under care for about a year but had difficulty controlling her diabetes.

The patient reported to Dr. Jamal that she was taking her medications, but in reality, she wasn’t. When she came to a group session, she encountered another woman from her neighborhood who talked about how she had been able to manage diabetes – using the same regimen the patient was prescribed.

“That peer interaction did something,” Dr. Jamal said. “My patient decided she, too, could be successful, and she started taking her medication.” That patient now has been able to control her diabetes.

The diabetes initiative has been operating for nearly a year in Independence, and as checklists are completed on more and more patients, the results are starting to show promise.

This includes higher rates of diabetic foot exams, vaccinations, renal disease screening, and overall diabetic control (compared to the same period last year, before the program was introduced).


“This truly is a team effort,” Dr. Jamal noted. Starting with Patient Service Representatives who schedule and remind patients, to nurses and medical assistants who review patient histories in pre-visit sessions, to clinic staff who print out flyers and educational materials, counselors who educate and providers who diagnose and treat – all play important roles in reaching patients and encouraging the changes that drive results.

In 2019, this checklist approach – with lessons learned from Independence – will be rolled out across all SHS clinics.

“It is so very difficult to make healthy choices,” Dr. Jamal noted, “but we can make it easier.” For people who are diagnosed as pre-diabetic, lifestyle changes can frequently mean avoiding medication. “Prevention is possible,” she added.

There has never been a better time to come in for a checkup, at Independence or any of the Swope Health Services locations.  “We want to see you,” Dr. Jamal said. “We want to partner with you to help you achieve your health goals.”

In this month of diabetes awareness, it’s a good time to make an appointment for an examination. Call 816-923-5800 to schedule an appointment. SHS can help prevent diabetes in some cases, and if you have diabetes we can help with medication and education, including nutrition guidance, to lessen its impact on your life.

Don’t Delay – Get Your Flu Shot Today

Did you know the best time to get a flu shot, providers say, is before the flu starts circulating?

That’s because it takes about two weeks from the time you get a shot for the vaccine to take effect in your body. You want to have the vaccine antibodies BEFORE the flu season kicks into high gear.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest people should be vaccinated by the end of October.

While it’s impossible to predict exactly when the flu will start appearing in Kansas City, flu activity across the U.S. typically peaks between December and February.

If you don’t make the October deadline, the CDC says, it’s still a good idea to get vaccinated, even into January.

Vaccinations are recommended for everyone ages six months and older. Pregnant women should also get flu shots to protect themselves and their babies.

At Swope Health Services, we are ready. When you come in for any kind of visit, your provider can give you a flu shot. Call for your appointment today: 816-923-5800.

“We encourage all our patients to get the flu shot to build a healthier community,” says Julie Richards, Director of Infection Prevention and Control, at Swope Health Services.  “Remember, you may be able to spread the flu to someone else before you are sick or while you are sick.  Getting the flu shot protects all of us!”

Why is it important to get a flu shot? To prevent the disease from spreading, especially to the very young and very old and other people who are most vulnerable to flu complications.

For most people the flu is an inconvenience, but for some, the flu leads to hospitalization. Annually, an estimated 12,000 people die from complications of the flu – that’s the equivalent of about 23 747 jet planes full of passengers.

In addition to getting the seasonal flu vaccine, there are other basic steps you can take to stay healthy:

  • Wash your hands often
  • Avoid being around people who are ill
  • If you become ill, don’t go to school or work or any place where you can spread the flu to others

What can you expect if you get the flu? Usually, flu symptoms, like a runny nose, sneezing and sore throat will come on quickly.

Most people have a fever of 100 degrees or more, aching muscles, chills and sweats, headache, dry cough, nasal congestion, and sore throat. They also may feel fatigued and weak. In short, having the flu is no fun.

Most people can recover from the flu on their own, although it can take a week or more for some people.

If you have risks of complications, don’t hesitate to see your provider, who can prescribe antiviral medications to help fight the infection.

More information about the flu:

Swope Health Services wins five federal Quality Improvement Awards

NCHWSwope Health Services was honored with five Quality Improvement Awards from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration last week.

The awards cap off the annual celebration of National Community Health Center Week, highlighting the critical role community health centers play in providing high-quality affordable healthcare.

SHS was recognized with Quality Improvement Awards for:

  • Achieving status as a Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH).
    This is a program focused on coordinated organization and delivery of primary care, emphasizing access to quality and safety in comprehensive care services.
  • pcmh-badgeEnhancing Access to Care.
    This award recognizes health centers that increased the total number of patients served and the number of patients receiving comprehensive services between 2016 and 2017.
  • access-enhancer-badgeAchieving Clinical Quality Improvement with an increase in Clinical Quality Measures.
    This recognizes health centers that achieved at least a 10 percent improvement in one or more Clinical Quality Measure between 2016 and 2017. These clinical measures assess the care given to patients and show how the organization performs, leading to improved care.
  • hit-badgeAchieving Clinical Quality Improvement through the use of electronic health records data.
    This award recognizes health centers that use electronic records to report and manage all clinical quality measures for all patients.
  • Advancing Health Information Technology for Quality.
    This award recognizes health centers that used IT systems to increase access to care and advance quality of care.

“Here at Swope Health, we are proud to be a perennial recipient of HRSA quality awards and recognition,” said Kenneth Thomas, M.D., SHS Chief Medical Officer.  “Last year, we worked especially hard to identify areas for improvement and this most recent award validates our efforts and teamwork.”

Dr. Thomas emphasized that the awards are the result of a team effort, across the entire organization, to focus on quality care.

“These awards should show our patients that we value quality and safety,” he said. “We are creating innovations to make their experiences better, safer and of the highest quality.”

Wael Mourad, M.D., Associate Chief Medical Officer, noted the awards show a focus on patient outcomes.

“We look forward to building on this success to propel Swope Health as a quality leader amongst Community Health Centers in not just Missouri, but in the entire Midwest region,” he said.

Swope Health was one of 29 award-winners in the state of Missouri, according to the HRSA Awards report. Along with the recognition, SHS received $137,000 in award funds, which will be used to further develop quality programs, said Dave Barber, President and CEO of Swope Health.

“We are honored to receive these awards,” he said. “This demonstrates that our commitment to quality to every patient is making a difference.”

Be in the Know: National HIV Testing Day

badge-national-hiv-testing-dayThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other healthcare agencies, including Swope Health Services, are partnering to raise awareness about HIV with National HIV Testing Day on June 27.

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system and is spread through body fluids.

This virus can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, better known as AIDS.

It’s important to know if you have the virus so you can be treated. It’s important because once you have HIV, the virus stays in your body forever.

It’s important because there is no cure for AIDS, but it can be controlled with proper care.

“At SHS, HIV testing is available every day,” said Dan Gillen, Nurse Practitioner in Adult Medicine, and Director of Medical Informatics. “We encourage everyone to get tested. It is important to know if you are HIV positive so you can start treatment and prevent giving HIV to others.”

He continued, “Once you know your HIV status, you can make decisions based on facts. If you test negative for HIV – you don’t have HIV – you can make healthy decisions to avoid getting HIV. If you test positive for HIV – you have HIV – you can get connected to the resources and providers to help treat it as soon as possible.”

HIV info sheet

Click the image to download an HIV information sheet (PDF)

SHS partners with the Kansas City CARE Clinic, which specializes in HIV and AIDS primary care.

Services include disease monitoring and treatment, clinical and behavioral research and a range of supporting services like health education, peer support, counseling and case management.

HIV testing is important also because more than a million people in the U.S. are living with HIV, but one in seven of them don’t know they have it, according to HIV.gov.

And, the CDC reports that African Americans account for a higher percentage of HIV and AIDS diagnoses compared to other racial or ethnic populations.

If you are interested in learning your HIV status, come in for a visit. HIV testing is available during regular hours with a walk-in or scheduled appointment.

The test is fast and confidential, and takes only a small amount of blood to screen for antibodies, the telltale signs of the virus. If the test is positive, typically a second test is ordered to make sure. Testing is covered by most insurance programs and may be free to qualified individuals.

Call 816-923-5800 to make an appointment or walk-in and talk with your provider about any questions you have about HIV and AIDS. We’re here to help.

Make it Bright: It’s a Great Time to Reach for Salads!

appetizer-bell-peppers-cilantro-128391Now that it’s really springtime, it’s time to add some color to your meals. Break some rules!

“It’s a great time to reach for salads,” said Ozella Jones, Nutritionist at Swope Health Services. “I like to encourage using leftovers in salads and making a bright salad.”

She recommends using leftovers in salad, even though they might not be traditional salad fare. For example, leftover green beans, peas, corn or beets make great additions to a green salad.

Cut up with some onions and red, green or yellow peppers and toss with some oil and vinegar, and you’ve got a brand new healthy salad.

Salad making is one place where you can safely experiment and make something that’s filled with your favorites. Do you like blueberries? Go ahead, put them in the salad with anything else you like.

Using leftovers is a great way to avoid wasting food and also an easy way to add nutrition. That ½ cup of leftover peas isn’t really enough for another meal, but it will provide 4 grams of protein and only 67 calories, she said. If you toss it in with lettuce, carrots, onions and whatever else you like, suddenly you’ve got a very tasty and nutritious salad.

“If it looks good, bright and colorful, you are more likely to try it,” she said. “I want you to feel good about your food and try foods that are healthy for you.”

If salad’s just not your thing, consider smoothies as a way to enjoy fruits and vegetables. “Strawberries are a good source of Vitamin C, and blueberries are a great way to get antioxidants,” she said.

Spring vegetables, like asparagus, are plentiful now. Just one cup of asparagus provides a low 32 calories along with plenty of Vitamin C and D, she said. You can also get vitamins from herbs, like basil. Just adding fresh basil leaves to your meal adds color and flavor, as well as potassium and Vitamin C.

For a main dish that might be a little bit lighter fare, try fish. Ozella recommends halibut and salmon, even canned tuna in water, as options offering the good kind of unsaturated fat – Omega 3.

“It’s time to break away from bland,” she recommends. “Go for color! Use what you like and make it attractive.”

Are you interested in learning more about your own nutrition? SHS Providers can refer patients for nutrition consultation. Ask your SHS provider at your next appointment.

Rainbow Fresh Chopped Salad

Prefer Following a Recipe? Here’s an easy one from Colorful Recipes:


  • Mixed Greens – 2 cups.
  • Chicken – Rotisserie, ½ cup, chopped.
  • Chickpeas or Garbanzo beans – ½ cup, drained from can.
  • Cherry Tomatoes – ½ cup, halved.
  • Snacking Cucumbers – 2, sliced.
  • Sweet Peppers – ¾ cup, chopped.
  • Red Onion – ¼ cup, chopped.
  • Avocado – ½, chopped.
  • Artichoke Hearts – ½ cup, quartered.
  • Fetta – ¼ cup, crumbled.
  • Cilantro – to taste, chopped.
Simple Dressing
  • Lemon – ½ or to taste, juiced.
  • Olive Oil – to taste.
  • Freshly Cracked Pepper – to taste.
  • Sea Salt – to taste.
  1. In a serving dish, lay the mixed greens in a flat layer.
  2. Arrange the remaining salad ingredients on top of the greens in sections as desired.
  3. Top off with chopped cilantro and dressing ingredients.
  4. Enjoy! ?