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DHS news release

This guest opinion appeared in The World newspaper in Coos Bay on June 16, 2005.


Innovations mean better health for all



By Bryan Johnston


The Coos Bay woman's name is unimportant. But her story of choosing a healthier lifestyle may match those of people you know.


She's had several issues with her health, many stemming from choosing a poor diet. Six months ago, she began coming to healthy-cooking classes taught by Bay Area Hospital nurse Jardin Kazaar, who is also a chef.


It worked: She says she's buying better foods at the market, preparing healthier meals, and feeling better.


She is only one of many Coos County residents who have benefited from the unusual offerings of a local physician-owned health plan, Doctors of the Oregon Coast South, or DOCS, whose innovations go well beyond offering healthy-cooking classes.


This is important to you as a Coos County resident even if you aren't among about 8,000 local people enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan: DOCS and its partners are contributing to a healthier Coos County, which benefits children who do better in school and local employers with a healthier workforce.


Speaking for the state agency that contracts with DOCS, I can say it is among the best examples of how an organization serves not only Oregon Health Plan members but also the broader community including low-income people who don't qualify for the Health Plan.


Consider: DOCS offers monthly smoking-cessation classes for anyone in the community who wishes to enroll. The same is true of the healthy-cooking classes.


For people who qualify, DOCS pays for a weight-management and exercise program which has included programs such as Curves, and Weight Watchers and lap-swimming passes at Bay Area Athletic Club. One woman who goes to Curves and Weight Watchers has lost 33 pounds. A man who at first resisted the idea went on to lose 220 pounds.


At last September's Fun Festival, DOCS gave away 300 sets of scales to help people trying to lose weight.


DOCS was among those that got a clinic started that operates several days a week at Marshfield High School, this after realizing that students often don't get to doctor appointments scheduled downtown.


DOCS members have access to a 24-hour phone line where they can ask a nurse about their medical concerns, giving patients immediate attention while also reducing expensive but unnecessary hospital emergency-room visits.


I really liked the DOCS-sponsored poster contest for students at Blossom Gulch Elementary School. A kindergartener drew joggers with the caption "Jog even if it rains" and a fourth-grader drew cars and bicycles in the shapes of fruit with the tagline, "Take the right road to a healthy body."


DOCS also works closely with other health-oriented agencies such as county health and mental health departments, the hospital and others to ensure patients receive the mix of services they need for good health. If a physician tells DOCS that a patient needs help in an area such as housing, DOCS is ready to help.


Not only is DOCS helping Coos County residents be healthier but, significantly, other health plans across the state are seeing the benefits and also doing more to promote good health.


Oh, and that woman who's been taking the healthy-cooking classes for the past six months? She says she will return when the cooking classes resume in September, and this time she'll also bring her mother.


Bryan Johnston is interim director of the Oregon Department of Human Services, which contracts with Doctors of the Oregon Coast South to deliver Oregon Health Plan medical services in Coos County.