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An Ounce of Prevention



Good news for the region

BY LIZ LYONS

Knoxville does pretty well in rankings of top places to retire, raise a family or enjoy outdoor activities, but the region does not fare so well in health scores. Obesity in children and adults, cardiac and pulmonary diseases and diabetes are problems throughout East Tennessee. The good news is that the region’s health care professionals are stepping up to address these issues with prevention, wellness and early detection programs.

Covenant Health System

Serving more than two million patients and families in Tennessee each year, Covenant Health System offers programs and services to improve health for both individuals and communities. Programs at the Fort Sanders Weight Management and Nutrition Center encourage individuals to achieve a healthy lifestyle through sustainable changes in diet, physical activity and personal health management. Regular exercise can help reduce risks for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression and stress-related conditions.

“We were born to move,” said Tommy Hodge, general manager of Fort Sanders Health and Fitness Center. “Exercise has a way of healing the body and making it feel better. People who exercise regularly tend to have a more positive outlook on life.”

“Doing something four to five times a week – like walking outside or on a treadmill, biking or yoga – has been shown to benefit health,” he continued. “It’s important to find something you enjoy doing, and any amount of activity is helpful in preventive care.”

Each year the health system encourages people of all ages to train for and participate in the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon. In 2019 nearly 8,000 runners from around the region and the U.S. took to the streets of Knoxville as part of the 15th annual event, which includes a full marathon, half marathon, relays, 5K and the popular Covenant Kids Run. The Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon also includes a Fittest Companies challenge and a schools’ challenge to encourage businesses and students to improve their health and fitness.

“The Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon brings our community together and supports individuals who are striving to live active, healthier lifestyles,” according to Jim VanderSteeg, Covenant Health president and CEO. He noted that in addition to race events, the marathon supports the larger community through grants to local nonprofits that support healthy living and programs such as the Innovative Recreation Cooperative at Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center, which helps individuals with disabilities participate in adaptive leisure activities.

Covenant Health hospitals periodically coordinate community needs assessments. Each community prioritizes its concerns, and the local Covenant Health hospital follows up by developing plans to help address issues that can be improved through the hospital’s resources and services.

“Health assessments provide us with a snapshot of the current health challenges facing our communities,” said Gary Young, community outreach manager at Covenant Health. “The assessments help our hospitals identify opportunities for meaningful collaboration in preventive health strategies.”

UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE MEDICAL CENTER

At the University of Tennessee Medical Center, the region’s academic medical center and Level I Trauma Center, over 4,500 team members carry out the medical center’s mission: to serve through healing, education and discovery. In 2018, UTMC provided education and awareness programs to more than 130,000 people.

“UT Medical Center offers traditional family and internal medicine options as well as integrative health which offers personalized primary care services with a focus on both traditional medicine and proven therapies to enhance one’s overall wellness,” according to Dr. James Shamiyeh, senior vice president and chief quality officer at The University of Tennessee Medical Center. “Womens’ health is provided by board certified obstetricians and gynecologists, and mens’ health is provided by board certified urologists. Additionally, we offer preventive care services, education and screenings throughout the medical center.”

“Some health needs vary by age range,” he continued, “but drug abuse and access to healthcare, including mental health care, are issues across multiple age ranges. Obesity, diabetes and cancer screening are significant priorities as well.”

Education and awareness are two keys to prevention according to Dr. Shamiyeh. “A few of the educational classes offered by UTMC are Stop the Bleed classes which teach simple actions to stop life-threatening blood loss,” he said. “There are also multiple classes in our Center for Women and Infants related to newborn care and infant safety and also the Healthy Living Kitchen which provides nutritional education incorporated with healthy recipes led by dietitians.”

According to Dr. Shamiyeh, UTMC offers a wide range of screenings for the community. “Thanks to the Breast Health Outreach Program, breast cancers are being diagnosed that may otherwise have gone undetected.

Last year aboard the mobile mammography unit, across 19 counties, 3,458 women received screenings mammograms, 413 of which were provided to uninsured/underinsured women at no cost. In 2018, the UT Breast Health Outreach Program provided education to 275 women about breast cancer signs and symptoms, screening guidelines, and the importance of breast self-awareness.”

Another successful screening program is Heartwise,” he continued. “We’ve screened more than 1,300 individuals through our Heartwise event since 2008. Findings include hyperlipidemia, hypertension, hyperglycemia and moderate carotid stenosis. Identification of risk factors early can save lives and promote early treatment options, along with exercise and diet recommendations to improve health and wellbeing. This year, we expanded Heartwise to our Loudon and Sevier County facilities to offer screenings to areas of need.”

TENNOVA MEDICAL GROUP

Tennova Medical Group employs 150 medical providers across a variety of specialties. The physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and other staff at Tennova Medical Group clinics care for over 169,000 patients in our community.

“Tennova Medical Group offers a wide range of preventative screenings and care,” according to Ann Metz, Director of Marketing, East Tennessee Market, Tennova Healthcare. “We also offer Annual Medicare Wellness exams, which are multidimensional preventative screening exams that allow the patient’s primary care provider to monitor physical, mental and emotional health. The exam also focuses on ensuring patients are up to date on all recommended prevention screenings based on their health history.”

“We are seeing an epidemic of obesity,” according to Jason Collins, M.D., a family medicine physician with Tennova Medical Group. “In the past two years, Knoxville has ranked in the top 10 worst cities for obesity in the United States. As a consequence, we are seeing a rise in the rate of diabetes and heart disease. In many cases, both of these diseases are preventable.”

“Family physicians are able to provide preventive services geared toward keeping patients healthy, with the goal of heading off problems before they happen,” he continued. “In addition, we are able to treat any illness that requires attention and help patients work toward a more healthy lifestyle. We offer comprehensive care for the whole family—from preventive wellness exams to chronic disease management.”

The Tennova Breast Centers educate women on breast health and encourage self-exams and routine screenings. “Today, thanks to early detection and treatment advances, women are surviving breast cancer and living longer, healthier lives,” according to Janine Mingie, director of the Tennova Breast Centers.

“We use advanced imaging technology to detect breast abnormalities at the earliest stages and offer screening mammogram specials in May and October,” she continued. “We encourage women to come and bring along their mom, daughter, sister or friend and also enjoy some special pampering, a gift and refreshments.”

At Tennova Health & Fitness Center, located on the campus of North Knoxville Medical Center in Powell, “our biggest success is the longstanding relationship our facility has formed with our community,” said Katie DePersio, executive director of the Tennova Health & Fitness Center. “This year will be our 20th year of operation. We offer a safe place for members of the community to come and utilize the resources we offer to help each individual become the healthiest, happiest version of themselves.”

SUMMIT MEDICAL GROUP

Summit Medical Group is East Tennessee’s largest primary care organization with more than 300 providers at more than 60 practice locations in 13 counties. Summit provides comprehensive primary care, including adult family medicine and pediatrics. In addressin health concerns in the area, Summit Medical Group focuses its efforts on teamwork and continued care. “As East Tennessee’s largest primary care organization, our physicians and providers treat multiple medical conditions and offer a continuum of life care from pediatrics to geriatrics, said Dr. Jeffrey Stevens, Halls Family Physicians, a member of Summit Medical Group. “At our practices, we see that concerns such as obesity or improperly managed diabetes can increasingly lead to more serious health issues. A primary care physician at Summit Medical Group becomes a patient’s partner in health.”

The goal is to form a lifelong partnership in health with your physician and encourage annual visits to stay on top of health concerns, according to Dr. Timothy Williams, Summit Medical Group at Deane Hill and Summit Medical Group at Northshore. “Annual wellness exams and screenings are the most important things you can do for your overall well-being.”

“This is proactive, preventive care that protects your health and provides peace of mind,” he continued. “Annual checkups allow a primary care physician to track your health and monitor any changes. If a serious medical condition were to arise, an annual screening could identify it much earlier, therefore increasing treatment options and positive outcomes.”

Summit Medical Group also offers several programs to aid patients in making healthy choices. Patients have access to free health education programs and classes that include weight loss, tobacco cessation and diabetes management according to Dr. Williams. “We offer a 12-month program called Steps to Wellness. The program focuses on nutrition, exercise, weight management and general wellness.”

“One of the many successful programs offered is the Fit to Quit program,” he continued. “Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, causing 480,000 deaths each year. 87% of the patients who complete our Fit to Quit program have stopped smoking – a success rate more than three times the national average for smoking cessation programs. That can be life-changing in the best way.”

Healthy Families Make Healthy Communities 

University of Tennessee Extension wants healthy choices to be easy choices for Tennessee’s limited-resource families. To achieve that goal, UT Extension had to determine the best way to reach families across the state.

In partnership with communications firm Moxley Carmichael, UT Extension conducted focus groups across the state; developed effective messaging; determined best communication methods; designed and placed billboards in strategic locations; and created a new public website at healthyfamilies.tennessee.edu.

“The work we do at UT Extension makes a difference in the lives of limited resource families,” said Christopher T. Sneed, PhD, of UT Extension. “We knew in order to make healthy eating accessible to everyone, we needed to reach families where they were and provide messaging that resonated.”

The focus groups identified barriers to healthy eating, such as on-the-go families and children unwilling to try new foods. Solutions included involving children in food preparation and making healthy snacks easy to reach. Adults set the example by eating healthy, so the children would follow their lead.

One focus group participant said, “We usually talk to them throughout the meal about how it’s going to help them. They were asking me what [the food] would help them do. I’m like, ‘Carrots, they’re really good for your eyes. Broccoli, that’s going to make you strong.’ That’s kind of a reward in itself.”

Summit Medical Group also offers several programs to aid patients in making healthy choices. Patients have access to free health education programs and classes that include weight loss, tobacco cessation and diabetes management according to Dr. Williams. “We offer a 12-month program called Steps to Wellness. The program focuses on nutrition, exercise, weight management and general wellness.”

“One of the many successful programs offered is the Fit to Quit program,” he continued. “Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, causing 480,000 deaths each year. 87% of the patients who complete our Fit to Quit program have stopped smoking – a success rate more than three times the national average for smoking cessation programs. That can be life-changing in the best way.”

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