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An Adelante staff member kneels down to a young boy to give him a paper certificate.

 

Experts believe that over 90% of our health happens outside of a medical office. Obviously visits to a medical professional are helpful, but how we live, how much we exercise, and what we eat affects our health even more. That mindset is a big part of the Wellness Referral Center (WRC), which is operated by Adelante Contact Center Services. The WRC is part of a larger collaboration of community-based wellness resources and programs and funded through Presbyterian Center for Community Health and other partners including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Blue Cross Blue Shield of NM and others.

The WRC at Adelante works to reduce rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease by connecting patients in the health care system to resources that promote wellness. Specifically, medical professionals “prescribe” activities for their patients, such as healthy cooking classes or physical activities. Adelante’s wellness pros contact those patients to let them know when and where classes are available and help to enroll them, send them registration letters with attendance information, and then make reminder calls to the participant before each class. Later, Adelante follows up with the referrer so they know that the person attended and completed the prescribed activity. The call center also calls each participant to discuss the wellness experience and if they couldn’t participate discuss what made attendance difficult. Additional classes are offered again to attend.

Kids Play! and its Value at the WRC

One of the WRC’s newest initiatives, Kids Play!, targets good health habits in the youngest community members by incentivizing play time. A child in the program is mailed fun suggestions for how to be active in their local park and receives a log for tracking their activities. If a child tracks their play time at least 3 times a week for 3 weeks, they are sent a $10 gift card.

In April 2018, Leah Nelson, a medical resident from the University of New Mexico’s Center for Development and Disability FOCUS program, volunteered with the WRC as part of her community wellness rotation. She was the first in her residency program to complete this rotation with the intention of learning more about community wellness initiatives.

“My residency is in preventive medicine, which is inside internal medicine, but we specialize in population health and community health programs. The goal is to learn more about how community wellness works because usually, as physicians, we work one-on-one with patients,” says Leah. For a month, Leah volunteered at Adelante and helped create the foundation of the WRC’s Kids Play! program.

UNM medical resident Leah Nelson holding the “Kids Play!” brochure she helped to create for the Wellness Referral Center run by Adelante.

UNM medical resident Leah Nelson holding the “Kids Play!” brochure she helped to create for the Wellness Referral Center run by Adelante.

 

During the initial stages of creating Kids Play!, Leah sought out programs that were already available in the community. She decided to focus on Albuquerque’s International District because a walking trail map already existed for that area. Using the information from the walking map, she visited the area, pinpointed all of the playgrounds, and modified the map to include playground indicators. Photos were taken and blurbs were written to describe the playground and illustrate what a child could do at each site.

Leah also wrote the letter that is addressed and mailed to children participating in the program. It includes a scavenger hunt and other suggestions for how to play on the playground, as well as listing the benefits of play such as increased coordination, endurance, and problem-solving skills. Additionally, the letter gives children ideas of what to buy with their gift cards when they complete their play log. Buying bubbles, Frisbees, jump ropes, balls, and other items can make play more engaging.

Leah tracked twelve playgrounds in Albuquerque’s International District that kids can visit as part of her volunteer efforts for the Wellness Referral Center at Adelante.

Leah tracked twelve playgrounds in Albuquerque’s International District that kids can visit as part of her volunteer efforts for the Wellness Referral Center at Adelante.

 

As a physician, Leah sees the benefits of the Kids Play! program for children and their entire families. “Doctors are recommending kids get at least an hour, if not more than two hours, of physical activity per day. And most families aren’t doing that because of safety concerns or feeling like they don’t have a place to do it,” says Leah. “I’m hoping that the program can really help them identify where they can go to play and give them ideas of play activities that they can do with their families so that kids can start being more physically active close to home.”

Future Growth and Potential

For the future of Kids Play! and other programs at the WRC, Leah finds potential for future residents to foster new projects or to make amendments in their rotations. “There’s a lot of potential for future residents because there’s going to be at least two residents per year coming through doing this rotation. So hopefully they’ll be able to either make new projects or be really helpful in getting current projects updated.”

Adelante greatly appreciates Leah’s time as a volunteer and Presbyterian, Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico, the BUILD Health grant and our many community partners who make the work of the Wellness Referral Center possible. We also welcome non-medical volunteers who want to help in our contact center with the work of the WRC or the Benefits Connection Center. If you’d like to volunteer, contact Glenna Donnell at GJDonnell@GoAdelante.org or call (505)341-7186.