Today’s post comes from Araceli Vázquez, MS, RD, LD. Vázquez is one of the few bilingual/bicultural dietitians in North Texas. She began her career in nutrition in 1996 after a successful career as a microbiologist and now offers nutrition counseling as part of her private practice, DietGenics. Vázquez is also a member of ENC’s Health Professional Advisor panel. She’s chatting about National Helth Week which impacts all health professionals.
This year The National Health Education Week centers on the “The Role of Health Education Specialists in Implementing the Affordable Care Act”
Based on the World Health Organization: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) authorized funding of new models of insurance, and delivery reforms. The ACA allows more people to be covered by insurance, to receive more benefits, and reduce the cost of care. It authorizes provisions to provide superior focus on public health prevention. The ACA has called for emphasis on 1) the challenges and needs of both the public health and clinical workforces to improve quality of care and patient safety and 2) expand community-based programming to support prevention and health promotion. This creates unprecedented opportunities and challenges for health educators to improve the health of the nation by working on prevention, wellness, and chronic disease management. Health education reduces the costs of treatment, especially on chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. The health education specialist’s role is vital in 1) communicating ACA’s provisions for improving consumer health, 2) navigating the health insurance enrollment process, 3) working with accountable care organizations and patient-centered medical homes, 4) promoting worksite wellness and 5) advocating for the prevention and public health fund.
The scope of practice of Public Health Educators varies, and it includes Registered Dietitians. There are many essential roles that health education specialists can play treating the “whole person” in a more holistic approach. Health education specialists have the proper education and skills to play an important role in every phase of care and preventive services, offer knowledge that can strengthen the physician-directed team, and possess the ability to apply theories and models of behavior change to improve the health behaviors of individuals and groups. This can ultimately reduce or even eliminate disparities in access and quality of care.
As this nation advances with ACA, it is important to acknowledge the role of all the health education specialists in the implementation of evidence-based strategies in a patient-centered care system.