The Essentia Institute of Rural Health (EIRH), in collaboration with 16 Essentia Health hospitals, published the results of community health needs assessments for the communities those hospitals serve. The assessments, which provided important insights into each community’s health, were a starting point for programs tailored to the needs and resources of each community.
Now comes the next step as Essentia Health teams with our communities to take on the priority health needs. Some communities already have begun programs, while others will launch initiatives in the new year. All hospitals also are planning for future community health activities.
In the vast majority of communities, the focus will be type 2 diabetes prevention and education. That’s no surprise, given the rapid rise in this disease in recent years and the ensuing toll it takes on many aspects of a person’s overall health and well-being.
“This initiative gives Essentia Health another way to keep the communities it serves healthy,” explains Dr. Sara Hendrickson, an EIRH community health specialist. She and Norbert Knack, a Registered Nurse and certified diabetes educator, coordinate these diabetes prevention programs across the organization. “By reducing the chances of developing type 2 diabetes among high-risk individuals, Essentia Health is working to prevent disease rather than just treat it,” she says.
The diabetes prevention and education classes are taking a comprehensive approach to helping people address many of the behaviors that contribute to this disease, including nutrition and exercise. The classes will be taught in each community by diabetes educators, dietitians or other individuals who are specially trained.
An estimated 79 million Americans have pre-diabetes, which means their blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but aren’t high enough yet to be diagnosed with diabetes. Studies show people with pre-diabetes can reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by improving their diet and increasing their exercise.
Research undertaken by Dr. Thomas Elliott
and the Essentia Institute of Rural Health was recently in the national spotlight. The prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association
featured Dr. Elliott’s work and that of researchers at eight other nationally known institutions.
“Our goal is for the Essentia Institute of Rural Health to become a national leader in research” says Dr. Elliott, the former executive director of the EIRH. “By doing so, it benefits the rural populations that our health system serves. When we’re published in such a high-level scientific journal, it shows that we are a national leader.”
The study looked at the use of pain medications in obese patients before and after bariatric surgery. Researchers analyzed data in electronic medical records of more than 11,000 patients. “We were studying data, not actually touching any patients,” Dr. Elliott explains.
The premise was that if obese patients underwent weight-loss surgery, they might experience less chronic pain, such as back or knee pain, as they lost weight and their need for opioid medications would decrease. Instead, the research showed that the patients’ chronic use of opioid medications increased after bariatric surgery.
“We were looking for better strategies for handling chronic pain, doing more than writing prescriptions,” Dr. Elliott says. “There is a reluctance to initiate discussions about pain medication. This is a wake-up call to doctors to be careful in their prescribing of opioids to anyone.”
A JAMA editorial, which ran with the Oct. 2 study, suggests it takes less time for a busy physician to write a prescription for pain medication than it does to have a discussion with the patient about the prospect of tapering off or stopping the use of painkillers. Patients also are unlikely to initiate such conversations.
Dr. Elliott, who was instrumental in the creation of EIRH, says being featured in JAMA is a milestone. “This is really an extraordinary achievement for EIRH to have research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association,” Dr. Elliott says....
Ann Bussey, vice president of the Essentia Institute of Rural Health, retires this month after 40 years of service to the Essentia Health system.
“Like so many employees, multiple family members worked for Essentia. Our family legacy is tied to the Benedictine community, the Duluth Clinic, Miller-Dwan and St. Mary’s,” Ann says. “My father, Dr. Bruce Williams, was a physician and physician leader at the Duluth Clinic and St. Mary’s. My brother, Steve Williams, worked as a social worker for Miller-Dwan and St. Mary’s. My mother volunteered in the library and was part of the group that started the gift shop at St. Mary’s.”
Ann has held a number of leadership roles in the health system, including vice president of Physician and Professional Services, administrative executive of Neuro-musculosketeal Services, director of Rehabilitation and Behavioral Health, director of Polinsky Medical Rehabilitation Center and Laboratory support services manager.In addition, Ann has authored articles in the Group Practice Journal for the American Medical Group Association, contributed to reference book chapters, consulted with national agencies and presented at national conferences.
“I’ve been fortunate to be such an integral part of building the Essentia Health system. I’ve had a charmed life here, with wonderful leadership opportunities. I’m grateful to the leadership mentors I’ve had -- Dr. Peter Person, Dr. Carl Heltne, John Smylie, Dr. Daniel Nikcevich, Jim Cherveny and Mary Johnson,” Ann says. “I’m also grateful for the chance to meet and work with so many physicians, practitioners and employees across Essentia. That has been the jewel.”
“Ann Bussey has been a true missionary for Essentia Health,” says Essentia Chief Operating Officer John Smylie. “She has dedicated more than four decades of service to others in pursuit of our mission. She has made a healthy difference in people’s lives. Ann took on, with enthusiasm and courage, every challenge she was presented. A consummate problem-solver and servant leader with perseverance to see things through. We are a better health system because of Ann.”
Ann says she is approaching her retirement in a thoughtful and deliberate manner. “I’m trying to carefully plan what I will do for the rest of my life and hope that I’ve got 20 good years,” Ann says....
Patients who participate in medical research, such as taking a new cancer drug or eating a Vitamin D-supplemented cookie each day, need to be protected. Physicians, researchers and investigators across Essentia Health involved in this kind of research – called human subjects research – are required to take special training to ensure patients are protected.
Now, anyone within Essentia involved in research will transition to new training by year’s end. Previous training was conducted through the National Institutes of Health. Those required to take the training includes anyone who conducts, supports, reviews or oversees human subject research.
“Our new educational program is the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) offered through the University of Miami,” explains Tricia Mazurowski
, manager of the Institutional Review Board at the Essentia Institute of Rural Health. “CITI offers more comprehensive resources and a wealth of web-based educational tools.”
Researchers need to participate in medical education and complete refresher courses every three years, based on the type of research they do.
“Our goal is to protect those taking part in research and clinical trials and conduct ourselves in the most ethical manner,” Mazurowski says. “It’s putting our patients first – no matter what.”
To learn more about Essentia’s human subject research, click on the “Human Subjects Protection
” tab, then scroll down to “Training” and “CITI FAQs
A study on journal writing and cancer survivors was recently featured in Minnesota Medicine Magazine. Colleen Baggs, program manager of the Caring Ways Resource Center in Duluth, MN, worked with staff from the Essentia Institute of Rural Health on the study as well as Duluth writer and cancer survivor Lisa McKhann.
Baggs served as the principal investigator, working with the EIRH’s Dr. Charles Gessert and biostatistician Brian Johnson, MPH.
for Minnesota Medicine and turn to page 45. We’ve also attached a copy of the article as a PDF
. The research was featured in a previous post in our archived news. Click here
to see it....
Essentia Institute of Rural Health (EIRH) senior research scientist Thomas Elliott, MD, has been invited by the Urban Institute to participate in a panel review of a research project that is being funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The panel will examine the feasibility of using data from electronic health records (EHR) for health-related research on populations that have been understudied. This includes rural individuals, Asian-Americans, adolescents with autism-spectrum disorders, and lesbian, gay, bi-sexual individuals.
Dr. Elliott will provide expertise on rural population health and the use of EHR data in research....
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