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Blue supplies the green that will lead to better rural health care

We are thrilled that our Rural Health Summit is one of 31 projects selected for funding by the Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas this year. Established by Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield in 2001, the Foundation is a separate nonprofit with the sole mission of funding projects in Arkansas that will improve health care in the state. The funding support from Blue & You allows us to keep participant costs low and bring in outside experts to make the most of our time with our participants. 

The initial planning for the Summit began with discussions about rural health care needs in Arkansas with Dr. Mark T. Jansen, director of regional programming at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and invested chair for Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, George K. Mitchell, M.D., Endowed Chair in Primary Care. That conversation expanded to include other health care leaders who have a stake in raising the quality and availability of health care in rural areas. These leaders all supported creating a network of cross-collaboration among the many efforts currently operating in rural Arkansas and looking at manageable, short-term goals to address during the next year to two years. It is our belief that establishing such a network will be an important step toward creating a rural health care environment that will be more attractive to new physicians and foster an increase in quality care.

Near the end of March we will host the first Summit meeting to begin building that collaborative network of healthcare professionals and organizations. We’ll be joined by representatives of some of the state’s leading health groups and professional organizations for a facilitated two-day session to start the process, followed by regional visits and a larger Summit meeting later in the year. Our hope is to foster increased collaboration and resource sharing so that innovative health care solutions can be shared more readily in the state and incoming physicians will have established allies at all points of rural healthcare. 

We are extremely grateful to the Blue & You Foundation for their support. Above and beyond the monetary contribution, their backing of our effort and the 30 other recipients this year represents a belief that we will all be able to make a tangible difference in the state. Carrying that charge and that belief into our working sessions will further underscore the importance of coming together and empower our group to start tackling the challenges facing rural health.

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Surprise award

The Institute is extremely proud that Program Officer Samantha Evans was honored with the Arkansas Community Development Society’s New Professional Award. Samantha has been actively involved in community development, especially in Arkansas, for most of her professional years.

This past Friday, two representatives from the Society - including Whitney Horton, pictured above on the left with Sam on the right - came to the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute to surprise Sam with the award. Sam was very touched, as you can see on our Facebook page.

Sam comes from five years at Main Street Arkansas serving as its assistant director. In this position, she worked with numerous small- and medium-sized communities throughout the state of Arkansas where she worked to help interested citizens revitalize their downtown.

Sam served both on the board and as peer-elected chair of the Young Nonprofit Professionals of Little Rock. Under her leadership as the board chair, Little Rock was selected to host the annual Young Nonprofit Professional National Conference. It was a very successful event highlighting Change Through Head, Heart and Hands. The Change Through Head, Heart and Hands was a national nonprofit leadership conference that in August 2015 brought 150 young, emerging leaders from throughout the nation to Little Rock. Sam played a strong role in promoting central Arkansas tourism for attendees, further deepening the investment and experience attendees had while expanding the event’s economic impact.

She created the monthly speaker series “Coffee with an Expert,” which brings executive directors across various sectors together to speak with YNPN members.  She also developed a fundraising plan to increase membership and sponsorship for the local organization.

Before working for Main Street Arkansas, Sam was the planning technician for the city of North Little Rock for two years. Originally from Perry County, Sam, now of Conway, worked with her home community to help save the Rosenwald School in Bigelow, once listed as one of Arkansas’ Most Endangered Places. She’s written articles on a variety of issues concerning community development and planning including this one.

Sam holds a Professional Community and Economic Developer Certification from the Community Development Council. She has a master’s degree from the Humphry School of Public Affairs in City/Urban Planning with an emphasis in Community and Regional Planning.

She was selected as a Krusell Community Development Fellow and MacArthur Fellow in 2007 as a graduate student at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. During her fellowships she worked with Model Cities CDC, a community-based development organization, and CommonBond, a large affordable housing development and management organization. Her placement experiences included: assisting with funding applications for tax credits; marketing research; data management and analysis; predevelopment planning and funding applications; assistance with façade improvement program; help with real estate closings. 

Sam is a regular speaker at conferences and events, including for the Community Development Institute, the National Main Streets Conference and innumerable local community sessions.

She received her undergraduate degree from Spelman College with a Bachelors of Arts in Political Science. In a nice Rockefeller connection, Spelman College, which was founded as the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminar, later changed in honor of Laura Spelman, John D. Rockefeller’s wife, and her parents, who were longtime activists in the anti-slavery movement. 

I had the privilege of working with Sam at a previous job, and I was thrilled when we got to be colleagues again here at the Institute. We’re very proud of her and look forward to seeing how her talent moves our programs forward in the future.

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Rural Health Day highlights state's needs, those working to meet them

Happy National Rural Health Day! Today, November 17, 2016, is the first official Rural Health Day in Arkansas, recognized by a recent proclamation from Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Organized nationally by the National Organization of State Rural Health Offices, the third Thursday of every November is set aside to recognize the work done in rural communities by health officials across the nation.

With countless acres of farmland, the Delta, friendly small towns and close-knit communities, Arkansas knows rural. In fact, while the national average for rural populations was 19% in 2010, Arkansas averaged 44%, according to the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s Rural Profile of Arkansas - 2015. And while rural communities are great places to live and work, they present unique challenges for health care. Both rural and urban care centers in the state look to improve the quality and access of care for the people they serve, but in rural areas that often extends to transportation concerns, telecommunications support and a dearth of physical spaces to receive care. According to the Rural Profile, there are an average of 64.5 primary care physicians per 100,000 people in rural Arkansas compared to 139 physicians per 100,000 people in urban areas.   

Recognizing those challenges to rural health care is an important part of Rural Health Day, especially in our state where if you don’t personally live in a rural area, odds are that a family member or loved one does. Equally important, however, is to recognize and appreciate the continued efforts to improve rural health care in the state and address those challenges head on. In Arkansas, that includes the Arkansas Department of Health’s Office of Rural Health and Primary Care. Beyond leading the charge to officially recognize Rural Health Day in the state, the ORHPC is involved with administering state health care grant programs to rural areas in need, developing training programs for continuing education specific to rural areas, supporting  the development of community-based health centers and much more.

The Arkansas Department of Health and the ORHPC share the goal of improved rural health care with many organizations across the state, including the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Arkansas Hospital Association, Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield, Arkansas Minority Health Commission, Community Health Centers of Arkansas, Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, multiple faith-based groups and countless other organizations. So while the challenges are many, so are the helping hands.

We look forward to working with these and other organizations on a Rural Health Summit in 2017. We’ll have more to share about the summit in this space as it draws closer.

In the meantime, to learn more about Rural Health Day and national rural health concerns and efforts, you can visit this page on the National Organization of State Rural Health Offices site. To learn more about what is going on locally, the Office of Rural Health and Primary Care-produced State Rural Health Plan 2015-2020 is a good place to start. Above all else, take a moment to recognize the many health care issues faced by rural communities, celebrate the progress made so far and appreciate the tireless efforts by so many groups to make sure our rural neighbors receive the health care and support they deserve.      

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Fair play

A trip to the playground — hurtling down the rocket slide, soaring on the swing set, making yourself dizzy on the merry-go-round. For children in America, it’s a quintessential part of childhood, right? Right up there with refusing to eat your peas. The experience builds social bonds, encourages creativity and, of course, provides an exhilarating outlet for fun.

I’ll bet there is a good chance just reading those words conjured up one of your own playground memories — maybe a recent trip with your children or a recollection from your own childhood.

Some children, however, face challenges — through no fault of their own or of their parents — that make a traditionally designed playground something much less than a pursuit of unbridled enthusiasm. For example, children with disabilities or mobility impairments may be excluded because of accessibility or equipment issues. Or, perhaps, they have a parent or guardian who is confined to a wheelchair. These children not only lose the fun and social experiences that playgrounds bring, they miss the physical and mental health benefits that an active lifestyle provides.

The city of Bryant is hoping to remove those barriers, so that all of its citizens will be able to use the playground and take their children to the playground. In 2017, they plan to commence construction of a new universally designed, fully inclusive playground at Wilbur D. Mills Park — an 80-acre city park originally built in the early 1970s. The current equipment will be replaced with inclusive equipment that will allow all children to play and interact together (the current equipment, incidentally, will be repurposed in another park that doesn’t have a playground).

Renderings of new playground equipment at Mills Park

“Mills Park is a very important and historical park for Bryant,” Mayor Jill Dabbs said. “It’s filled with people every day and functions the way you want a park to function. So, it is already a healthy, active park … and it makes sense to invest in it and put this playground there.”

The project is far more than adding wheelchair access points to an existing playground. So, you may ask, how does a playground that is universally inclusive differ from a playground that is accessible? Well, Inspiring Play magazine describes it thusly: “An inclusive playground takes into account not just the physical equipment and tactics … it embraces the philosophy that children and adults of ALL abilities benefit immensely from being able to play and interact together. These types of playgrounds take into account children with physical disabilities as well as special needs or developmental disabilities.”

For example, the inclusive playground at Mills Park will be broken into three stations organized by age group. At each station, there will be playground equipment with ramps that allow access to everyone — including children, or their guardians, in wheelchairs.

“What that means is, (anyone) that is bound to a wheelchair will have the ability to enter and exit the playground equipment without ever having to leave that chair, unless they want to (to use the slide for example),” said Spencer McCorkel, assistant director of parks for the City of Bryant. “And that’s the point. This playground will accommodate any person from start to finish.”

Bryant’s commitment to providing a public space for all children to be active also coincides with the objectives of Healthy Active Arkansas (HAA). The statewide, 10-year framework – which Dabbs helped shape through her participation in planning summits put on by the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute – launched in 2015 and was designed to improve nutrition, reduce obesity and other health issues, and broadly encourage and enable healthier lifestyles in Arkansas. Specifically, one of the nine priority areas that make up the HAA framework, Physical and Built Environment, urges stakeholders “to create livable places that improve mobility, availability and access within the community where they live, work and play.”

Casey Covington of Metroplan is the team lead for HAA’s Physical and Built Environment priority area. He recently praised Bryant’s commitment to this inclusive playground.

“We want to make sure that all our kids, including those with disabilities, have a place where they can be physically active while also reaping the social benefits that public spaces offer,” he said. “If someone is active at an early age, then their chances of maintaining an active lifestyle is significantly better.”

Parks Director Chris Treat said that depending on the amount of funding available at the start of the project, the city is hoping to complete the project in one phase by the end of 2017 — although he said they are prepared to phase it in over time, if necessary.

The city is still in the planning and fundraising stages for the new playground equipment, with part of the funding coming from reissued bonds. Of the $4 million designated to the Parks Department, $300,000 has been earmarked for the renovations at Mills Park. The total cost of the renovation is projected at $786,000, with the remainder to be raised through fundraising efforts with the assistance of the nonprofit Friends for Inclusive Parks (Everett Buick GMC in Bryant, for example, has already pledged $10,000). The city is also hopeful they will receive an additional $250,000 in grant funding.

The project has been in the works for approximately two years since the city was approached by community members such as Erin Gildner with Friends for Inclusive Parks. Dabbs says she is not aware of another park of this scale anywhere in the central Arkansas area, but that’s not what she will be most proud of when this project comes to fruition.

“The reason this opportunity is available is not because the local government said this is important, but because the people said it’s important, and that is when you get the best projects,” she said. “This particular project just encourages more activity in an already-active place, and it will be a park that people from all over the state will come and visit — a place that parents can seek out to have that normal playground experience, regardless of their child’s abilities.

“I think when people — no matter what their abilities are — are given the opportunity to become their best person, it benefits them and their communities long term in every way.”

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Becoming baby-friendly

In an effort to improve mother/infant bonding, a handful of hospitals in Arkansas are adopting the Baby-Friendly hospital initiative.

You might be thinking, “Well, isn’t it a given that all hospitals would be baby friendly?”

I had that thought as well until I learned the meaning behind the effort. And it’s a touching one.

First, it’s important to understand the Healthy Active Arkansas initiative, of which the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute is a partner. The collaborative includes many leaders across the state to promote wellness and help fight obesity in the state, explains Juli McWhorter, chief nursing officer at Northwest Medical Center-Willow Creek Women’s Hospital.

“Promotion of breastfeeding is one of the major initiatives,” she says. “It is a very big deal for this collaborative, and they are so excited for us and the state of Arkansas.”

Willow Creek was the first hospital in the state to achieve national accolades for this breastfeeding initiative.

“We have always been ‘Baby-Friendly,’” says Sharif Omar, CEO of Northwest Health. “This designation simply affirms our commitment to the safest and highest quality care for our newborns and moms at both of the Northwest Health hospitals since Willow Creek was the first to receive this recognition a few months ago. We were thrilled when Willow Creek was the first hospital in Arkansas and are even more elated now that our second facility, Northwest Medical Center – Bentonville, is the second in the state.”

Baby-Friendly USA, Inc. is the U.S. authority for the implementation of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (“BFHI”), a global program sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), according to a news release. The initiative encourages and recognizes hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for breastfeeding mothers and their babies. Based on the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, this prestigious international award recognizes birth facilities that offer breastfeeding mothers the information, confidence and skills needed to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies.

The Northwest Medical Center news release points out that there are more than 20,000 designated Baby-Friendly hospitals worldwide and only 364 active Baby-Friendly centers in the United States.

The BFHI assists hospitals in giving all mothers the information, confidence and skills necessary to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies or feeding formula safely, and gives special recognition to hospitals that have done so.

The designation is given after a rigorous on-site survey is completed. It is maintained by continuing to practice the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.

From a nurse’s standpoint, McWhorter says this effort helps improve mother-infant bonding by initiating the practice skin-to-skin contact.

“The World Health Organization recommends newborns spend the first hour of life in a skin-to-skin contact,” she says.

Benefits of this practice include better thermoregulation in the infant, decreased respiratory rate, blood glucose control, greater infant comfort and less infant crying. This practice also improves breastfeeding outcomes, McWhorter notes.

In turn, the relationship between health provider and patient or new mothers is improved as well.

“We’re promoting patient/family-centered care by allowing mothers and infants to remain together immediately after birth regardless of type of delivery,” McWhorter says.

“This helps support the mother in establishing breastfeeding through education and we’re offering breastfeeding support after discharge through outpatient visits and breastfeeding support groups.”

Overall, “we hope to improve mother and infant bonding and to improve patient outcomes by educating mothers of the benefits of breastfeeding for both the mother and her newborn.”

Baptist Health is another hospital that is going baby-friendly. Jessiaca Donahue is an RN IBCLC Certified Lactation consultant at the Little Rock medical center. She is also the breastfeeding team lead for Healthy Active Arkansas. She explains that mothers who deliver their baby in a baby-friendly facility can be assured that all policies and procedures in place will support their feeding choice and that all staff is on board to help her be successful. 

“Becoming a baby-friendly facility is a comprehensive, detailed and thorough journey toward excellence in providing evidence-based maternity care with the goal of achieving optimal infant feeding outcomes and mother/baby bonding,” Donahue says.

“It compels facilities to examine, challenge and modify longstanding policies and procedures. It requires training and skill building among all levels of staff. It entails implementing audit processes to assure quality in all aspects of maternity care operations. The journey is exciting, challenging and worth it. It creates opportunities to develop high performance work teams and build leadership skills among staff, promotes employee pride, enhances patient satisfaction and improves health outcomes.”

At Baptist, there is Baby Friendly Committee in place, Donahue adds. It is on track to be awarded the Baby-Friendly certification by next year. Feedback, ideas and comments are welcome, she says. Contact her at 501.202.7378 or Jessica.donahue@baptist-health.org for more information. You can also keep up with Baptist Health on Facebook for the latest developments.

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Nobel laureate highlights Sixth Nanotechnology for Health Care Conference

PETIT JEAN MOUNTAIN, Ark. (Dec. 8, 2015) — It’s not often Arkansas is paid a visit by a knight and a Nobel laureate in the same week. It helps when they’re one and the same.

The Sixth Nanotechnology for Health Care Conference was held Dec. 2-4 at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute atop Petit Jean Mountain and featured Sir Harold Kroto, a British chemist and Francis Eppes professor of chemistry at Florida State University, who was knighted in 1996, the same year he won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Kroto delivered the keynote address for the conference, which attracted nanotechnology researchers from across Arkansas and the mid-South and included presenters from across the United States and Germany, India, Australia and Britain. Kroto, who has spent much of his time since winning the Nobel Prize speaking to students and advocating for “outside-the-box” approaches within the scientific community, also held a question-and-answer session with about 20 post-doctoral and other students who were in attendance.

“The ethical purpose of education must involve the teaching of young people how they can decide whether what they are being told is actually true,” Kroto said during his keynote address. “The teaching of a skeptical, evidence-based assessment … is fundamental to intellectual integrity.”

Kroto, along with two other researchers, won the Nobel Prize for their discovery of fullerenes, the third well-characterized form of carbon. He spoke of the importance of “play” in his approach to science, giving examples of how he has pursued research about which he was naturally curious.

“I never set out to win the Nobel Prize,” he said. “There were things I just wanted to know about, and it led me down this path.”

More than 100 people attended the conference, including University of Arkansas System President Dr. Donald Bobbitt, who introduced Kroto, and Dr. Dan Rahn, chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Other attendees were researchers and students, plus presenters considered to be at the top of their field of research. This included Dr. John Shock, founding director of the Jones Eye Institute and distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences; Dr. Wolfgang Fritzsche, head of the Nano Biophotonics Department at the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology in Jena, Germany; Dr. Esther Chang of the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University; Dr. Z.L. Wang, Hightower chair in materials science and engineering and Regents’ professor at Georgia Tech University, who presented on his research on the development of nanodevices and nanosystems; and many more.

Dr. Marta Loyd, executive director of the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, recalled a moment during the conference that drove home its importance.

“After Dr. Shock’s presentation, we noticed him chatting with Dr. Wang about the implications of each other’s research and how they might impact one another,” Loyd said. “This is exactly why this conference was organized. It connects the notable researchers we have in Arkansas with some of the most important work happening around the world. It can lead to significant information sharing and even collaboration.”

The Sixth Nanotechnology for Health Care Conference represents a partnership of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, the Food and Drug Administration’s National Center for Toxicological Research and the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute. It was made possible by the generous support of the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust and the Arkansas Research Alliance.

About the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute

In 2005, the University of Arkansas System established the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute with a grant from the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust. By integrating the resources and expertise of the University of Arkansas System with the legacy and ideas of Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller, this educational institute and conference center creates an atmosphere where collaboration and change can thrive.

Program areas include Agriculture, Arts and Humanities, Civic Engagement, Economic Development, and Health. To learn more, call 501-727-5435, visit the website at www.rockefellerinstitute.org, or stay connected through Twitter and Facebook.

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Sixth Nanotechnology for Health Care conference to feature Nobel laureate

PETIT JEAN MOUNTAIN, Ark. (Nov. 24, 2015) — The previous five Nanotechnology for Health Care Conferences at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute have attracted some of the world’s brightest researchers to Arkansas. The sixth promises to be the best yet.

Sir Harold Kroto, a Francis Eppes professor of chemistry at Florida State University, will serve as the keynote speaker for the Sixth Nanotechnology for Health Care Conference, scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 2, through Friday, Dec. 4, at the Institute on Petit Jean Mountain. Kroto was knighted in 1996, the same year he and two other scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for their discovery of fullerenes, the third well-characterized form of carbon.

Kroto will speak to conference participants, which comprise nanoscience researchers from across Arkansas, the mid-South and beyond, as well as post-doctoral students. Kroto will also have a separate question-and-answer session with the students.

“It is an absolute honor to host Dr. Kroto for this conference,” said Dr. Marta Loyd, executive director of the Institute. “He is a true champion of researchers and students, and we’re glad to be the conduit for some of Arkansas’ best and brightest to be exposed to him and his work.”

Dr. Donald Bobbitt, who holds a doctorate in chemistry and is president of the University of Arkansas System, will kick off the conference with a welcome and an introduction of Kroto.

“"This event continues to grow in its importance both for Arkansas and the U.S. scientific community in general,” Bobbitt said. “We are honored to have Dr. Kroto be part of this year’s conference. I have followed his groundbreaking work over the past 20 years and understand well the impact his work has had on the field of nanoscience.”

The main topics for this year’s conference are human disease diagnostics, therapeutics and prevention using nanotechnology, and approaches to developing international standards and methods for measuring nanomaterials and their biological impact.

The Sixth Nanotechnology for Health Care Conference represents a partnership among the Institute, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s National Center for Toxicological Research and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. It is made possible by generous support from the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust and the Arkansas Research Alliance.

“This conference represents a strong partnership among several University of Arkansas System entities, as well as our other equally important partners,” Loyd said. “It accomplishes both aspects of our mission: to honor the legacy of Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller by convening leaders to address key issues and ideas, and to further the mission of the University of Arkansas System.”

For more information about the conference, visit www.rockefellerinstitute.org/nano.

About the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute

In 2005, the University of Arkansas System established the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute with a grant from the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust. By integrating the resources and expertise of the University of Arkansas System with the legacy and ideas of Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller, this educational institute and conference center creates an atmosphere where collaboration and change can thrive.

Program areas include Agriculture, Arts and Humanities, Civic Engagement, Economic Development, and Health. To learn more, call 501-727-5435, visit the website at www.rockefellerinstitute.org, or stay connected through Twitter and Facebook.

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Arkansas governor launches plan to improve health across the state

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Oct. 14, 2015) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson launched a statewide plan today to improve the health of all Arkansans. The plan, titled Healthy Active Arkansas, contains nine focus areas all tied to increasing the health of Arkansans through healthy dietary choices and increased physical activity.

The nine focus areas are Physical and Built Environment; Nutritional Standards in Government, Institutions and the Private Sector; Nutritional Standards in Schools—Early Child Care Through College; Physical Education and Activity in Schools—Early Child Care Through College; Healthy Worksites; Access to Healthy Foods; Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Reduction; Breastfeeding; and a Marketing Program.

The plan can be viewed and downloaded by visiting www.healthyactive.org.

“Healthy Active Arkansas is about the future of our state,” Hutchinson said. “We envision an Arkansas for descendants where our population leads healthy, happy and fulfilling lives.”

Hutchinson pointed out the many benefits of improving health outcomes in Arkansas, including benefits to businesses through lower health care costs for employers and employees and increased productivity; lowering the burden of chronic disease treatment, such as obesity and diabetes, on the health care industry; and strengthening the state’s economic development potential by establishing Arkansas as a place with a healthier workforce.

“It’s all connected,” Hutchinson said. “We have more than $1 billion annually just in obesity-related expenses. The more we do to improve health outcomes in our state, the more efficient and competitive we become.”

Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Greg Bledsoe joined Hutchinson in announcing the launch of Healthy Active Arkansas, and he made a call to action for the entire state to embrace the tenets of the plan.

“For us to achieve the goals set forth in Healthy Active Arkansas, it will require all of us, across all sectors, to work together,” Bledsoe said. “This plan contains recommendations not just for the health care industry, but for businesses, governments, civic organizations and individuals. There’s power in people working together, and that’s what we’re challenging all of Arkansas to do.”

The announcement of the plan comes just weeks after a new study was released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that identified Arkansas as having the highest rate of obese adults in the United States.

“Obesity and related health problems like high blood pressure and diabetes are problems that are plaguing our country,” Bledsoe said. “Arkansas can and will step up to the challenge of reducing our obesity rate and improving the health of our people. Healthy Active Arkansas is the road map that we’ll follow to take on that challenge.”

Bledsoe is leading a consortium that will oversee the plan’s implementation. The consortium includes leaders from the Arkansas Department of Health, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, the Arkansas Minority Commission, Baptist Health and the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute.

One of the consortium’s first tasks is to hire an individual to coordinate the plan’s implementation.

“We hope to begin the search process for that individual soon,” Bledsoe said. “In the meantime, we are laying the groundwork for building relationships with communities, health care providers, nonprofits and others to join with us in this endeavor.”

One such relationship already built is with the Arkansas Hospital Association, which announced today its endorsement of Healthy Active Arkansas. Troy Wells, CEO of Baptist Health and a member of the Arkansas Hospital Association board, made the announcement.

“Hospitals across the state, both large and small, have an opportunity to be leaders in utilizing Healthy Active Arkansas,” Wells said. “This is an exciting step forward for our state.”

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'Single-focus entity’ to be considered at obesity summit

PETIT JEAN MOUNTAIN, Ark. (June 16, 2015) — Obesity is one of the most pressing health care issues of our time. A group of dedicated leaders in Arkansas will soon take another step in addressing the increasing effect that obesity has on health and health care.

In partnership with the Arkansas Department of Health, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute will host a highly facilitated, invitation-only summit this week to explore the feasibility of establishing a “single-focus” entity to combat obesity. The summit will take place Wednesday and Thursday at the Institute on Petit Jean Mountain.

This week’s meeting is a follow-up to the December 2013 conference at which more than 60 key advocates in Arkansas met at the Institute to collaborate on New Frontiers in Combating Obesity: A 10-Year Plan for Arkansas. The resulting plan, scheduled to be released soon, is a framework of research-based strategies to guide efforts in combating obesity. One of the key recommendations from the plan is for Arkansas to create a single-focus entity that will provide “infrastructure, authority and ownership” for the efforts.

“According to the 2012 issue of the Obesity Journal, Arkansas spends $1.25 billion annually on obesity-attributable expenditures,” said Dr. Marta Loyd, executive director of the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute. “We are proud to work with our dedicated partners to move the conversation forward on this important issue.”

To explore realistic requirements of establishing a single-focus entity, the summit is bringing together a group of leaders to articulate goals and learn from other states with similar entities. Experienced representatives from three states have committed to attend the summit: Rick Johnson, CEO of the Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness in Tennessee; Beth Franco, executive director of Eat Smart, Move More South Carolina; and Gabriel Guillaume, executive vice president of programs and strategy for LiveWell Colorado. The sessions will be facilitated by Barry Goldberg of Entelechy Partners, a Little Rock-based consultant with 25 years of experience developing leaders in a range of national and international organizations.

Among the Arkansas health care leaders attending the summit is Dr. Greg Bledsoe, state surgeon general.

“Obesity is a critical concern that significantly impacts the health of many Arkansans,” Bledsoe said. “Gov. Asa Hutchinson and I both appreciate the work and leadership of the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, the Arkansas Department of Health and the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement to address this serious problem. As we continue developing a plan for our state, I look forward to working with these dedicated leaders to improve the health of all Arkansans.”

Dr. Joe Thompson, director of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, said the task of treating current obese Arkansans and preventing the next generation from following suit is a monumental challenge.

“Obesity is basically the unintended consequence of societal changes that have occurred over the past few decades,” Thompson said. “Reversing the trend is complex and requires intentional societal participation on all fronts. This summit provides an opportunity to reenergize our efforts.”

Dr. Joe Bates, deputy state health officer at the Arkansas Department of Health, will also attend the summit. Bates has long been a champion of solutions to Arkansas’ obesity problem and says the long-term projections of obesity are grave.

“Almost half of adult Arkansans are obese, and 40 percent of Arkansas children are overweight or obese when they enter kindergarten,” Bates said. “Eighty to 90 percent of diabetics are overweight or obese, and have been often many years prior to diagnosis. Diabetes is a rapidly growing problem; in 20 or 30 years, one-third of adults in the U.S. will have diabetes if the present obesity trends continue. In addition to personal tragedy, these diseases are an enormous economic consequence to the state.

“Lowering the obesity rate is crucial if we intend to reduce or prevent illness, disability and death, and ultimately improve the health of our state.”

            Dr. Dan Rahn, chancellor of UAMS, said that a complex problem like obesity requires complex solutions.

“No other health issue affects more Arkansans,” Rahn said. “We must develop new strategies to lower the rate of obesity in our state.”

About the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement

The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI) has served the state of Arkansas since 1998 as a nonpartisan, independent health policy center. ACHI’s mission is to be a catalyst for improving the health of Arkansans through evidence-based research, public issue advocacy and collaborative program development. ACHI is jointly supported by the Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Arkansas Children’s Hospital and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. This support allows ACHI to respond to emerging issues and provides the nimbleness necessary to take advantage of emerging health policy opportunities. ACHI has worked in the area of childhood and adolescent obesity prevention since its inception.

About the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a northwest Arkansas regional campus; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. It is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 2,890 students and 782 medical residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including about 1,000 physicians and other professionals who provide care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS regional centers throughout the state. Visit www.uams.edu or www.uamshealth.com, or find us on Facebook.

About the Arkansas Department of Health

            The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is a centralized health department, operating health units in each of the state’s 75 counties. County governments provide facilities and support for the clinical, environmental and home health services offered by the agency. ADH works to protect, improve and promote the health of all Arkansans with the support of more than 5,000 dedicated employees and public and private partners. Each year, Department employees monitor and investigate public health disease and threats, provide preventive and personal health services in clinical and in-home settings, enforce laws and regulations, support Hometown Health Improvement, promote healthy behaviors, and respond to public health emergencies.

About the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute

In 2005, the University of Arkansas System established the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute with a grant from the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust. By integrating the resources and expertise of the University of Arkansas System with the legacy and ideas of Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller, this educational institute and conference center creates an atmosphere where collaboration and change can thrive.

Program areas include Agriculture, Arts and Humanities, Civic Engagement, Economic Development, and Health. To learn more, call 501-727-5435, visit the website at www.rockefellerinstitute.org, or stay connected through Twitter and Facebook.

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Radiation injury conference coming to Winthrop Rockefeller Institute this week

PETIT JEAN MOUNTAIN, Ark. (May 4, 2015) — Radiation injury is a growing health care concern. This week, the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences are bringing some of the world’s leading researchers in this important field to central Arkansas for a conference to present and discuss their research.

The Conference on Normal Tissue Radiation Effects and Countermeasures (CONTREC), a Winthrop Rockefeller Conference, will begin Wednesday and continue through Saturday. The conference will feature researchers and scientists from Europe, Asia, Australia and all across the United States presenting their work on radiation injury covering three areas: injury related to cancer treatment; injury related to warfare and other radiological events; and injury related to space travel.

“In keeping with the Institute’s mission to serve as a catalyst for positive change and to further the mission of the University of Arkansas System, we’re proud to work with UAMS to present this conference,” said Dr. Marta Loyd, executive director of the Institute. “Our primary partner in this has been Dr. Martin Hauer-Jensen, the director of UAMS’ Division of Radiation Health. Dr. Hauer-Jensen is a world-renowned researcher and has assembled a world-class slate of attendees and presenters on this topic.”

The Division of Radiation Health at UAMS is the largest organization in the United States outside of the U.S. government conducting research exclusively in the area of normal tissue radiation injury.

“The work we’re doing at the Division of Radiation Health helps to find better treatment and prevention methods for all three areas of injury that will be covered at CONTREC,” Hauer-Jensen said. “Opportunities like this, for the international community to convene and share ideas, are important for all of us who are working in the field of radiation injury research.”

CONTREC is being held in Arkansas because of the key sponsorship of the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust. Other major sponsors include the UAMS College of Pharmacy, the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute and the Arkansas Biosciences Institute.

More information about CONTREC is available at www.rockefellerinstitute.org/contrec.

 

About the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute

In 2005, the University of Arkansas System established the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute with a grant from the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust. By integrating the resources and expertise of the University of Arkansas System with the legacy and ideas of Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller, this educational institute and conference center creates an atmosphere where collaboration and change can thrive.

Program areas include Agriculture, Arts and Humanities, Civic Engagement, Economic Development, and Health. To learn more, call 501-727-5435, visit the website at www.rockefellerinstitute.org, or stay connected through Twitter and Facebook.

About the UAMS Division of Radiation Health

The UAMS Division of Radiation Health is devoted to investigating the mechanisms underlying the adverse effects of radiation on normal tissues and to developing pharmacological approaches to reduce these effects. Learn more at http://pharmcollege.uams.edu/departments-units/pharmaceutical-sciences/radiation-health/.

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