Many people say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Havre Public Schools, the Hill County Health Department and the District IV Human Resources Development Council hope to save the people of Havre a couple of those pounds of cure, with a program called the Health Care Institute.
The Health Care Institute started 10 years ago in a collaboration between UCLA’s Anderson School of Management and medical supply company Johnson and Johnson.
The goal of the program is to increase health literacy by training families to better know when children need professional medical attention and when and how they can be treated at home, saving the cost of the prevented and expensive medical attention.
According to the UCLA executive report on the program, “low health literacy has been known to affect the excessive use of emergency rooms and doctor/clinics and contributes to increasing health care costs. Some of these visits are unnecessary and can be attributed to the uninformed consumer. In fact, a lack of health literacy in the case of low-income families contributes to the uncertainty of how to manage their child’s health. ”
They began with a pilot project in 2002 which has since “taught over 43,000 parents nationwide how to treat everyday childhood illnesses at home, easing the burden on local emergency room and clinics. ”
According to their findings, the families that have been trained in the program and used their manual, “What To Do When Your Child Gets Sick, ” have cut down on doctor visits by 42 percent and on emergency room visits by 58 percent.
The training has also cut days of school missed by 29 percent and a parent’s number of missed work days by 42 percent.
The program doesn’t only help families with their rising costs of health care.
“The UCLA/HCI studies show that training 10,000 families using the Health Care Institute’s methodology can lead to a total cost savings of nearly $5.1 million to Medicaid in direct costs associated with unnecessary ER and clinic visits annually, ” the report says.
The institute had a conference in September in St. Louis that was attended by HPS’s nurse Jana Nordboe, Julianne Riggin from the Hill County Health Department and Marit Ita from Head Start and HRDC, who wrote a grant with Health Department Director Danielle Golie to start the program.
“They trained us to present to families, ” Nordboe said. “We invite them, give them the book and a thermometer, walk through some of the book with them and talk with them about how important it is to know when to take their kid to the doctor or emergency room and when not to. ”
Nordboe said she would like to roll the program out here by the end of this year, though it may not be ready until the spring. It will be in place by the end of the school year.
Superintendent Andy Carlson said that the program should help tackle two issues that affect Havre families.
“I think the two things she mentioned (school days and work days missed) are both important to us, ” Carlson said. “We can’t teach students unless they’re at school. The other piece is lost work time, which is another big issue for all of us in our community.
“It’s a community-wide program because it has an impact beyond the school district. ”