Health Matters Blog

Blueprint for Healthy Individuals Involves Entire Community

By Wendy Cornwell

This is part two of a column leading in up to BMH’s 20th Annual Health Fair, taking place in the BMH Parking Lot from 11:00am to 2:00pm on Saturday, September 24.

Wendy Cornwell

Wendy Cornwell

Three years ago, we adopted the “Launch into Motion” theme for the annual Brattleboro Memorial Hospital Health Fair with the goal of introducing the community to all the different ways people of all ages and life spectrums can get exercise and eat in a healthy way. Whether they are a youth fitness program, an elderly care facility, or another organization, each is asked to demonstrate how their agency contributes to that theme. But the health fair, which is now in its 20th year, is just a one-day focal point of this office’s function of providing information and opportunities for better health.

The BMH Department of Community Health and Hospital Education manages hospital education, education for regulatory requirements and community involvement. On the internal side, that means it’s the responsibility of our office to ensure personnel is educated on regulatory requirements. Catherine Tallen, RN, serves as the education coordinator here, developing orientation programs for new staff members and ongoing training when regulations are updated.

We also work with Grace Cottage Hospital, Brattleboro Retreat, Brattleboro Area Hospice and other organizations to offer community education programs year-round. Our fall calendar just came out, which has information about ongoing support groups as well as fitness classes like tai chi and belly dancing. Last spring, we ran a series of talks on patients and families coping with aging and dementia that was well-received so we are running it again in this fall.

Another program we’re continuing are the Healthier Living Workshops. We’ve been offering them since 2006, and it’s a really wonderful program that focuses on people with chronic disease. The six-week workshop covers all they things they can do to improve the quality of their life through stress reduction, nutrition and exercise as they’re trying to manage their condition. It helps them communicate with their providers, how to advocate for themselves and gives their families a better understanding of what they’re going through, and it’s free to Vermont residents. Look for their booth in the main tent at the Health Fair.

Healthier Living Workshops are part of Vermont’s “Blueprint for Health,” a program provided by the Department of Vermont Health Access, which is administering the state’s health care reform plan. The Blueprint is dedicated to achieving well coordinated and seamless health services, with an emphasis on prevention and wellness for all Vermonters, while controlling the cost of care. Windham Family Practice is the first practice in the county to be certified as a Blueprint for Health provider, and our office has been given a leadership role in establishing and executing the vision.

Primary care practices like Windham Family take a holistic look at the patient, making them the best place to implement the Blueprint model. It’s really important to look at the person holistically because it’s not just about treating their disease, it’s also about getting them and their familiy involved in the treatment process. A patient with a chronic disease may have a variety of factors making it more difficult to manage the condition. Maybe they have a problem with housing or suffer from depression. Diabetes is prevalent in Windham County, but a doctor can’t just tell a patient to get their blood sugar down if the person has to make food choices based on price. They also need nutrition counseling that will educate them how to choose healthy foods and where to access them affordably.

But one of the challenges for practices is coordinating referrals for services available in the community beyond primary care needs, because visit times are so short. The Blueprint model constructs a community health team, which coordinates with agencies in the community to get patients and their families the attention they need. The Brattleboro area is really rich in community resources, so there are a lot of providers at the table. We’re considering everything from substance abuse prevention and tobacco cessation to naturopaths and acupuncturists to be as inclusive as possible in the types of care people in Windham county need.

In many ways, the Health Fair is a preview of the changing Vermont health care landscape: many community agencies providing services that ensure a healthy outlook for patients and their families. We look forward to see you there tomorrow to help us Launch into Motion.

Wendy Cornwell, RN, is the Director of Community Health & Hospital Education at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.