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Joy Johnson, NET Health

The Center for Healthy Living welcomed its first client on Oct. 16, 2013.

The old fire building on Texas Highway 155 South in Tyler was established to continue providing a lifesaving function to residents of Tyler through the partnership between the city of Tyler and Northeast Texas Public Health District (NET Health) to provide chronic disease prevention services to underserved and uninsured communities in Tyler and across East Texas.

As a unique fixture within the St. Louis community of Tyler, the Center for Healthy Living (a.k.a. “the Center”) is the only local community health center in the area and the first of its kind to be staffed by four certified community health workers (CHWs) and a certified health education specialist. The majority of our clients who have been seen and screened at the Center are uninsured and unemployed loved ones, friends and family in your neighborhood, co-workers and customers of your company.

The staff at the Center offers free chronic disease prevention education and resources Monday through Friday. Throughout our six years of operation, the Center has provided diabetes prevention and diabetes self-management education to more than 200 clients and health-screening services to more than 2,000 clients. Within the past year, more than 600 uninsured clients were scheduled for free pap smears and mammograms in an effort to counteract the rates of breast cancer and colon cancer in the Tyler area, which are both higher than the state and national averages.

The Center offers a home blood pressure monitor project to people identified as having undiagnosed or uncontrolled high blood pressure. Participants are given a free blood pressure monitor to check their blood pressure daily for 16 weeks, so that our CHWs can call each participant to obtain numbers and provide additional education and assistance. Average blood pressure before the project was 161/92 mmHg. After the completion of the program, blood pressure among the participants decreased an average of 18 systolic points and 9.5 diastolic points, and persons enrolled in our 16-week project maintain an 86% completion rate.

The Center has also become the hub for a community clinical linkage project called CommUNITY Cares. Our CHWs electronically connect uninsured individuals to a primary-care home and to the social services agencies best suited to address the person’s health needs. Through a network of clinical and community partnerships, the CommUNITY Cares project addresses insufficient access to primary health care services, removes the high costs due to potentially preventable hospitalizations and minimizes inappropriate emergency department use by individuals seeking health care in an emergency room. Referrals to the Center come from Tyler hospital ERs and social service agencies. More than 125 uninsured have successfully been enrolled in a primary health care home.

Since February 2017, the Center maintains annual accreditation through the American Association of Diabetes Educators for diabetes services. The Center is the only National Diabetes Prevention Program site in Northeast Texas recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two members of our staff are lifestyle coaches who provide free classes on how to prevent diabetes, to safely lose weight and to learn how to easily enjoy a healthy lifestyle.

This designation is reserved only for programs that have effectively delivered a quality, evidence-based program that meets all of the standards for CDC recognition. The sustained success of our lifestyle change program makes an invaluable contribution to the prevention of Type 2 diabetes, both in our Northeast Texas region but also nationally. According to data collected by the CDC, over 86% of health care spending in the U.S. is for chronic disease, and the Center for Healthy Living continues to minimize these costs within the East Texas area.

Joy Johnson is NET Health assistant director of community outreach. NET Health will continue to talk about Your NET Health. This feature will focus on a variety of health issues that hold importance to your community. Let us know if you have questions about our article, or if you have a topic or topics that you want us to cover, by sending us an email at ContactUs@netphd.org.

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