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Behind the Scenes at Community Action Partnership: Adult Wellness and Prevention Screening

Part 4 in a new series of interviews with Community Action Partnership Staff

Cal-Poly Social Science Student and Community Action Partnership Intern Kaitlyn Oelsner interviews Heather Murphy, R.N., about the Adult Wellness and Prevention Programs.


Kaitlyn: What are some of your responsibilities as the Supervisor for Adult Wellness and Prevention Screening?Heather Murphy

Heather: I am a registered nurse and I have worked as a Supervisor for Adult Wellness and Prevention for the last five years. We are a mobile unit that offers free health screening for adults. In this economy, a lot of people don’t have access to health care and the goal of Adult Wellness and Prevention is to improve access to health services. We primarily go to sites in the county that are easily accessible to senior citizens; however, the service is available to anyone over age 18. The individuals most in need of healthcare are often the ones who have limited mobility and we seek to address the needs of that population by offering our free clinics at a variety of easy to access sites in the community.

K: What sorts of services are offered at Adult Wellness and Prevention clinics?

H: We offer an assortment of free testing. We check for anemia and look at an individual’s blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, pulse, and weight. We are also available to offer basic guidance and education in regards to health related issues and healthy lifestyles. Many of our clients bring in their lab slips, blood work and medications. We take the time to go over any concerns that they may have about interpreting test results and medication usage.

K: You have just started a new program called, Healthy Eating for Successful Living in Older Adults. Can you tell me a bit about that?

H: Healthy Eating for Successful Living in Older Adults is a six-week nutrition workshop geared towards adults who are age 60 or older. We are mid-way through our first six-week workshop and so far it has been a huge success! The emphasis of the program is cardiovascular and bone health but we are able to adjust the curriculum to fit the health and nutrition needs of the group. We encourage all of our participants to make weekly goals. For example, a participant might want to lower their carbohydrate intake or someone else may want to address their high cholesterol. The program enables the group to make the diet and lifestyle changes necessary to achieve those health goals. It has been incredibly rewarding to see people take what they learn in our classes and use it to improve their health. We have a 91 year old woman in the group who is trying to lose a little bit of weight and she has already lost four pounds. She has been really diligent about keeping a food diary and has been an inspiration to all of us!

K: What is involved in a typical workshop?

H: We hold all of our meetings at the San Luis Obispo Senior Center. We meet once a week, six weeks in a row. Then we have a seventh meeting a couple weeks later. The seventh meeting will be a lot of fun because we will get to go out to a restaurant for lunch and practice all of the things we learned. During the first six weeks, we start every meeting by going over everyone’s goals from the previous week. It is really rewarding to see everyone make tangible progress towards improving their health. If, for some reason a participant did not meet their goal, we look at the possible reasons why and the group offers suggestions and encouragement. Everyone is really supportive of one-another and it has fostered a wonderful sense of community in the group. After we brainstorm about our goals we will give a short lesson. Then we watch an exercise video that everyone has a lot of fun with. After that, we provide a snack that had something to do with the lesson for that day. During our grain lesson we had a quinoa salad and the other day we brought in Cherimoyas. We try and introduce foods that they might not otherwise think about eating. After the snack, we have another short lesson and then we set our goals for the following week. It is two hours long and it goes by in the blink of an eye!

K: What has motivated you to become involved in this type of work?

H: As a nurse who has worked extensively with seniors over the years, I have seen a massive gap in nutrition education for this part of the population. I have seen the incredible difference that improved nutrition and exercise can have in the quality of life for seniors. I think sometimes older adults are missed in the media messages about nutrition. Their needs and obstacles to health may be different than someone who is younger. Seniors may live alone, be financially limited, or be unable to access a grocery store. For many seniors, cooking can be a difficult chore so they tend to rely on processed and easy to prepare foods. You can still have a healthy diet within those limitations, but health education needs to be tailored to meet their needs.

K: How do you think your job is helping people; changing lives?

H: We provide seniors with the information and support they need to make healthy choices. Healthcare can be intimidating and at times even threatening. Our current system of healthcare is difficult to navigate even if you have insurance and a regular general practitioner. Our clinics and workshops offer a non-threatening atmosphere in which people can raise their concerns and ask questions about their health. We act as an entry point for people who are not accessing the healthcare system for whatever reason. By enabling people to address their health needs, we help them improve their quality of life.