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Navigators Help People to Play Active Role in Health

United Way’s Live Well healthy aging and independent living initiative uses“community health navigators” to train people with chronic health conditions to take an active role in improving or maintaining their health. Take “Mrs. B.” for example. With encouragement from her navigator, Mrs. B. started attending a bipolar disorder support group, quit smoking, resumed walking regularly and got in touch with friends again. “All around she’s doing a much better job taking care of herself,” said the navigator.

“As people assume greater responsibility for their health, they become more likely to eat healthier, take their medicine properly and engage with their health care providers,” said Don Smith, United Way Community Development Division Vice President and Director of the Area Agency on Aging. “They become less likely to use the emergency room.”

With the help of United Way’s lead partner, Meals On Wheels, and others such as JPS, North Texas Area Community Health Centers and Texas Health Resources, about 230 people will be served through the community health navigation program in 2014-2015.

Community health navigators first evaluate the knowledge and confidence their clients have to manage their own healthcare. Then they help them map out a plan to take charge of their health through actions designed to reach specific goals. Gradually the clients’ perspectives change from passive to confident; from “My doctor is in charge of my health” to “I’m my own advocate.”

United Way’s Live Well community health navigation program is gaining national prominence. In October it was showcased at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics National Conference in Atlanta. It was also presented earlier this year at the n4a (National Association of Area Agencies on Aging) Conference and the Meals On Wheels Association of Texas Conference, both held in Dallas.