Public health issues take center stage next week


The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) in Moffat and Routt counties will promote public health during Public Health Week Monday through April 9. The VNA is equivalent to a public health department and local officials want the week to raise community awareness of public health.

"This is a celebration of good health for the community," said Marilyn Bouldin, assistant director of the VNA. The VNA provides health care services to rural areas of the county.

"Public health makes sure people who need health care get it," Bouldin said. "It places emphasis on access to care."

VNA public health care providers design, deliver and evaluate programs which help build safe, healthy communities. The VNA in Moffat and Routt counties has served more than 40 percent of the population in one way or another.

"We look at health as a community-based perspective and what we can do to help it," Bouldin said. "We do not deny service to anyone."

Public health covers a variety of areas, including community education, environmental issues (water, air quality, restaurant and day care inspections), communicable diseases, health screening for all ages, pre-natal education and personal safety.

According to Bouldin, what really makes the VNA work is the staff.

"We are all committed to being public health-orientated. We believe in what we do," Bouldin said.

Major characteristics of the VNA include assessment and policy development. With assessment, officials survey clients and determine if they are high-risk and what services they are eligible for. In policy development, officials collaborate with other agencies in the community "to improve the overall health of the community," said Wanda Ely of the VNA. By working with other groups, the VNA is able to initiate regulations, such as those about smoking and environment.

Public health care programs assure individuals, families and communities quality, professional counseling and care. VNA offers many programs to assure public health. One of these programs is immunizations

On Monday, the VNA will hold a "Super Shot Day," giving immunizations to children two-months-old to age 5. Immunization requirements for students entering school will change July 1, so it is important for parents to become aware of these changes and immunize their children, according to Ely. To set up an appointment, call the VNA.

When public health officials were surveyed on what they deemed to be the most used service, they chose immunizations.

"It is a very high priority," Bouldin said. Immunization at the VNA is open to all ages, not just children. Flu shots in the fall are given by the VNA.

They also offer immunizations for travelers. With this service, the VNA is able to immunize people planning trips to other countries.

Another popular program is family planning. According to Bouldin, the program is open to all women, regardless of income. The VNA offers confidentiality and covers all women's health issues.

Colorado Health Plan Plus (CHP+). CHP+ covers visits to doctors and clinics for preventive, primary, acute and specialty care; inpatient and outpatient hospitals services; emergency care; prescription drugs; glasses and hearing aids; and behavioral and mental health care. Medical services are provided through health maintenance organizations where available and by CHP+ providers elsewhere.

CHP+ is a statewide program for uninsured children that was created by the Colorado General Assembly and is supported by a partnership of public agencies and private businesses.

An estimated 76,000 Colorado children are eligible for CHP+ by virtue of living in families with incomes below 185 percent of the poverty level. Children who qualify for Medicaid are not eligible for CHP+.

According to Bouldin, this is a great program that parents need to consider.

"This is a wonderful program. We are providing kids who have never had health insurance to get good health care," Bouldin said.

The WIC (women, infants and children) program is a special supplemental nutrition program. WIC is a federally-funded program that provides nutrition education, healthful foods and health referral to women, infants and children who qualify. It is open to pregnant women, postpartum women (up to six months after delivery), women who are breast-feeding up to one year and infants and children to age 5. Participants in the program receive checks for a prescribed food package and nutritional education from a public health nurse.

Statewide, enrollment numbers in WIC are down. According to Bouldin, with the amount of funding available statewide, there are 2,500 openings in the program.

"There are not as many people enrolled as we would like," Bouldin said.

VNA also offers educational programs in subjects such as HIV/AIDS, injury prevention, nutrition and proper food handling and preparation techniques.

According to the VNA, education helps people make healthy lifestyle choices.

VNA programs are funded through grants, county allocated funds, United Way, contracts with the government and federal medical programs. They are a private, non-profit organization. For more information on the VNA and its programs, call 824-8233.

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