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UW Partnerships Expand Reach of Health Programs

A Matter of Balance class-392x304Over the past six years, the United Way of Tarrant County has developed partnerships with four local hospital systems to implement evidence-based programs that continue to improve the quality of life for older adults all across Tarrant County.

Joining hands with Texas Health Resources, JPS Health Network, Baylor Scott & White Medical Center and HCA North Texas has led to the growing success of programs like A Matter of Balance, a proven series of eight free fall-prevention classes (shown here) that helps participants overcome their fear of falling, increase their strength, flexibility and balance, and protect themselves and recover if they do fall.

Donald Smith, Director of United Way’s Area Agency on Aging, has seen first-hand the growing value of these programs.

“We are excited about our partnerships with four hospital systems in Tarrant County, who have seen the value of our evidence-based programs to reduce hospital readmissions, emergency room visits and premature nursing home placements,” Smith said. Recent surveys found that seven in 10 A Matter of Balance graduates felt they were better able to control falls.

Since 2010, more than 6,000 people have graduated from evidence-based fall prevention and disease management programs, making these the largest programs in Texas.

One such graduate, Gerrit Spieker, 73, found A Matter of Balance so informative and helpful in maintaining his ability to avoid falls and feel confident, he now volunteers as a coach.

“With the knowledge and conditioning the A Matter of Balance program has instilled in my life, my mobility is great,” he said. “Five years into the program, the best reward is being able to help other seniors open up and address their fears of falling, and seeing the results in their greater confidence, mobility and enjoyment of life.”

Christina Bartha, Program Manager at Senior Citizen Services of Greater Tarrant County, a United Way-funded partner in United Way’s LIVE WELL health initiative, knows these partnerships allow for widespread delivery of services that leads to reaching a greater number of older adults just like Gerrit.

“When older adults see hospitals, the Tarrant County Public Health department, United Way and its Area Agency on Aging, Senior Citizen Services, and other partners working together in support of these programs, they’re more likely to believe the programs really work,” she said.

Through its partnership with Senior Citizen Services, JPS plans to offer the A Matter of Balance program in five of its clinics in 2016.

For the past three years, the UNT Health Science Center (UNTHSC) has also partnered with Senior Citizen Services to train more than 100 physical therapy students in A Matter of Balance. The students then get hands-on experience leading classes for older adults in the community.
“The learning that occurs in the class goes far beyond fall prevention,” Christina said. “The eight-session classes offer opportunities for students and older adult participants to create special bonds and learn from each other.”

This is just one example of how United Way and its partners work together to improve geriatric education for both current and future healthcare professionals. Through a grant awarded to UNTHSC by the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Workforce Education for Healthy Aging and Independent Living, or WE HAIL, Program was developed to transform clinical training environments for healthcare professionals. United Way’s Area Agency on Aging, UNTHSC, Texas Christian University, and JPS Health Network have partnered together to implement the WE HAIL program.

“WE HAIL’s vision for geriatric training is a timely endeavor as Texas faces increasing numbers of older adults, and a commensurate need for geriatric health professionals,” said Dr. Janice Knebl, Principal Investigator of WE HAIL and Director at UNTHSC Center for Geriatrics. A Matter of Balance training will be held at UNTHSC in July for medical and other health professional students at UNTHSC and TCU. UNTHSC also is working with United Way and its Area Agency on Aging to introduce the class to Family Medicine residents at JPS and Plaza Medical Center.

United Way knows that—when it comes to ensuring that the older adults of Tarrant County LIVE WELL—it’s UNITED, we stand.

Click here to learn more about United Way’s LIVE WELL health initiative.