Nutritional Behavioral Health Program
Interview with Juli Furgeson, Ph.D., Health Psychologist
The Nutritional Behavioral Health Program at People's Community Clinic is dedicated to providing patients with information about how to improve their health, and teaching patients how to use that information. Many of the patients who participate in the program are newly-diagnosed diabetics.
The Program works through individual sessions and group classes. Each week our nutritionist and health psychologist hold classes on different subjects that are designed to give patients the tools they need to lead healthy lives. Weekly classes are offered in both English and Spanish and include topics such as:
- Managing Diabetes
- Newly Diagnosed Diabetes
- Good Eating Class
- Gestational Diabetes
Classes for children or parents are offered on an as-needed basis. All classes are small, ranging from just 3 to perhaps 10 people. They are open to all of our patients, and patients can sign up with their Medical Assistant during any visit.
Some of the diabetic patients at the Clinic work with Community Health Promoter Ruby Nino. The Community Health Promoters Program was designed to improve the health of the residents of East Austin using community health promoters recruited from and working in their own communities and neighborhoods.
Diabetic patients are also enrolled in the Clinic's Chronic Disease Management Program. The Clinic uses a Chronic Disease Registry database to enhance primary care and outcomes. A chronic disease nurse manages the program and works with healthcare providers to identify the patients who are most at risk and provide them with case management services.
The Nutritional Behavioral Health Program is currently staffed by our health psychologist, Juli Furgeson, Ph.D. (Biography).
Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. The cause of diabetes continues to be a mystery, although both genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise appear to play roles.
There are 20.8 million children and adults in the United States, or 7% of the population, who have diabetes. While an estimated 14.6 million have been diagnosed with diabetes, unfortunately, 6.2 million people (or nearly one-third) are unaware that they have the disease.
One out of every five health care dollars is spent caring for someone with diagnosed diabetes, while one in ten health care dollars is attributed to diabetes. The total cost of diabetes for people in Congressional District 25 in 2006 is estimated at $359,600,000. This estimate includes excess medical costs of $231,000,000 attributed to diabetes, and lost productivity valued at $128,600,000. (Information from the American Diabetes Association.)
For more information:
American Diabetes Association
National Institutes of Health
The following article was taken from the December 2007 edition of The Voice - the People's Community Clinic email newsletter.
The Nutritional Behavioral Health Program at People's Community Clinic is an organic program - it was created as a result of two people, Susie Jastrow, RD LD and Juli Furgeson, Ph.D., coming together with different, but complementary backgrounds. It succeeded because of their dedication, because there was a need for their contribution, and because it had the fertile soil of the Clinic to take root in. This program is a perfect example of the elements that make the Clinic what it is: unique, innovative and compassionate.
The foundation of the Nutritional Behavioral Health Program
In the late 1990s Susie Jastrow (right) became a volunteer dietician at the Clinic. She saw referrals from the providers - whoever seemed to need help with their diet. The Clinic had never worked with a nutritionist before, but before too long people began to notice that what Susie was doing really worked for the patients who came to see her. It's no surprise that her efforts paid off - after all, good nutrition is a crucial part of being healthy.
The Clinic believes in adopting programs that work for patients, and brought Susie on staff to continue the work she was doing. The Clinic strives to quickly recognize and adopt ideas like Susie's that make the most sense for our patients. This is how the Nutritional Behavioral Health program was born.
A new approach...
In 2002 a new volunteer started work at the Clinic, a health psychologist named Dr. Juli Furgeson (right). Susie brought Juli into her own fledgling program. In this way a unique and innovative partnership was born. Juli's talents added to Susie's mean that we approach patients with information in a new way. We ask the patients what they're going through and what they want to know, and give them the information they are interested in.
Juli and Susie use the empowerment model to approach their students - they know that telling people what to do doesn't usually work when it comes to changing negative behavior. People are able to make decisions on their own about how to live their lives. Juli and Susie just want to help them have all the information they need to make positive decisions for themselves.
The Nutritional Behavioral Health program reaches patients because the patients themselves decide the content of the classes. There is no lesson plan, no outline to follow. Instead, Susie and Juli do a kind of improv each time. They are both very knowledgable about their subjects, and are prepared to answer whatever questions their patients come to them with. Are they curious about what cholesterol is? Do they want to know more about exercise? Perhaps they want to know about blood sugar? Juli and Susie are prepared to help them with what they need to know most, whatever that might be.
End of an Era
After almost a decade, Susie Jastrow has decided to retire and will be leaving the Clinic. [Update: Ms. Jastrow's last month at the Clinic was December 2007]. We will all miss her. She is one of the unique, thoughtful, compassionate people that make the Clinic what it is. She has given of her time and expertise to hundreds over the years, and she has given her fellow staff members encouragement and enthusiasm.
We remain grateful to her for the program she began and the ideas she has fostered. We thank her for everything she has done for the patients and for us.
"Susie brought more than nutrition services to People's. She brought with her a real dedication to listening to what our patients have to say and to building lasting relationships with the patients. With Juli Furgeson, Susie has built a nutrition program that puts patients at the center of the care. Susie's work at the Clinic is a wonderful example of the fundamental importance of patient engagement and empowerment. Patient engagement was an important part of the Clinic's founding, and Susie's work echoes that spirit. We and our patients will miss her greatly!" -- Medical Director Louis Appel, M.D.
"Susie Jastrow is an example of the kind of people the Clinic attracts. She has been a dedicated employee whose work on nutrition for diabetics was published in the medical literature. She not only did brilliant work here but she is one of those people whose sunny disposition is a sure cure if you are having a tough day. We all will miss her and we wish her and [husband] Ken a wonderful retirement." --Board member Frank Bash, Ph.D.