Monday, February 23, 2015


Group support is key to quitting smoking

The tobacco companies may not like us, but we are on a mission to reach out to every smoker in our community and offer the opportunity to join our smoking cessation classes.

We have conducted these seven-week, eight-session American Lung Association “Freedom from Smoking” classes since January 2012 with very good success.  We want to spread the word:  of the 20 rounds of classes we have offered since that time, 43-57% of the participants report they quit smoking entirely by the end of the program.   That’s a very good quit rate.
The secret to our success is two-fold.  To ensure there is “skin in the game,” we charge $50 to join the program, payable at the first class, but we refund that money in its entirety if the participant attends all eight sessions. So the class is essentially free with full participation in the classes: it’s a monetary incentive that works.  People complain that $50 is a lot to put up front, but we remind them a pack of cigarettes averages $8.50 each, so a one-pack-per-day smoker will spend $59.50 in one week.  That usually ends the protest.
Second, the group support derived from gathering people together who are all in the same boat is undeniably helpful.  The program facilitators are all former smokers, so they fully understand the challenges you face when you try to quit smoking.
At the first class, everyone has a chance to speak up and tell their story — when they started smoking, how many times they have tried to quit, and what is the motivating factor that made them join the class.  It seems the average number of times people have previously tried to quit smoking is four.
Everyone supports the others in the group as all are well aware of how very difficult it is to quit smoking.  And it’s hard not to laugh when a man jokes he was coerced into joining the class because his wife threatened to shoot him if he didn’t quit smoking. 
So if you or someone you love really wants to quit smoking, find a “Freedom From Smoking” class offered near you and sign up today.  Your wallet, your lungs, and your loved ones will thank you.
Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Thursday, February 12, 2015


Want to better understand health care? Ask Me 3

It can be a daunting experience to navigate the health care system.  An excellent program has been created by the National Patient Safety Foundation called “Ask Me 3.”
This is a patient education initiative designed to promote communication between health care providers and patients in order to improve health outcomes. The program encourages patients to understand the answers to three questions:
• What is my main problem?
• What do I need to do?
• Why is it important for me to do this?
People are encouraged to ask their providers these three simple but essential questions in every health care interaction. Likewise, providers should make sure their patients understand the answers to these three questions.
But what if the person does not understand English ?
Imagine being handed a prescription, written in another language, and being told, “Prenez ces pilules trois fois par jour.”  Unless you understand French, you would not know the instructions are “Take these pills three times a day.” 
As The Bulletin has reported recently, 37 different languages are spoken in the homes of students attending NFA.   So how has Backus Hospital and the Hartford HealthCare system dealt with this challenge?   Backus has contracted with two language interpreter services.  The first is a phone language interpreter service, with two handsets, allowing for a three-way conversation — the patient, the health care provider, and the certified medical interpreter.   The second is a video system, where the patient can see the interpreter and vice versa.  This video system is also used for sign language interpretation for hearing impaired patients.  Both systems are available 24 hours a day.
Better communication and understanding result in better health outcomes... and isn’t that really everyone’s goal?
Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, February 09, 2015


Winter vegetables: The chilly weather champions

Any savvy shopper on a tight food budget knows that a key way to save on produce is to purchase fruits and vegetables when they are in season.  And seasonal produce is not only more cost effective, but fresher and more flavorful.  It’s a win-win, right?
Then winter rolls around. 
Unless you are lucky enough to live in a tropical climate (in which case I would love to visit — is tomorrow convenient?), you have probably noticed that your in-season vegetable options are limited.   So what’s a bargain hunter to do?  Are we simply doomed to a steady diet of potatoes, carrots and onions until spring?
Never fear!  The winter veggies are here to rescue you from the scourges of empty-wallet syndrome and menu boredom!  These lovely little beauties do it all.  They can tempt your taste buds as well as tame your appetite (due to a healthy dose of fiber) all while trimming the “fat” from your food budget.  BAM!
Here’s just a sampling of our winter veggie super-hero line-up:
• Beets: They may not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but beets certainly do not disappoint in flavor or nutrition. In all their crimson glory, these guys pack an unbeatable antioxidant punch and when roasted, offer a mild-mannered sweet and earthy taste that will have your family rushing to the table faster than a speeding bullet.
• Brussels sprouts: OK, so given your childhood horror stories, these little guys might seem more Darth Vader than Luke Skywalker, but give them a second chance with your now-grown-up taste buds.  There are many ways to reduce the bitterness of this notoriously-nutritious vegetable, from trying different cooking methods to using seasonings creatively.  Give them another try, and I promise you will find that they are truly a force to be reckoned with.
• Cabbage: Every Space Ranger needs vitamin C and folate, and it just so happens that cabbage is packed with both, as well as a whole host of disease-fighting phyto-nutrients. With a distinct flavor and aroma, cabbage is excellent in a stir fry, hearty soup or added to a crisp salad for some extra crunch that’s sure to take you to infinity and beyond.
• Parsnips: Looking for a tasty addition to a hearty winter meal?  No need to send Gotham a signal.  Parsnips are a fantastic alternative to carrots with a healthy dose of vitamin E and a welcoming flavor you’ll go batty for.
• Turnips/Rutabagas: Like Marvel and DC, these wonderful root veggies are very similar and often confused with one another.  No matter; they are both delicious and can be used much like potatoes with all the nutrient power, but fewer carbs.  Excelsior!
• Winter squashes: We can’t all be billionaire tech-geniuses, but with a ton of vitamin A and a surprising amount of iron, these delicately sweet delights just might raise your IQ a few points and they’ll definitely save you some cash.  From acorn to pumpkin to turban, winter squashes are scrumptious when roasted or pureed in soups.  Now that’s a thing of stark beauty.
Jennifer Fetterley is a registered dietitian for the Backus Health System and Thames Valley Council for Community Action. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Fetterley or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, February 02, 2015


Storm brings heavy snow — and heavy hearts

We live in stressful times.  Every time we open the newspaper or watch the news on TV, there are reports of natural disasters, catastrophic illnesses and crises. But I have always maintained that crises bring out the best in people.  Here’s an example: 
Last week, our region experienced “ Blizzard Juno.”  Two feet of snow was dumped on our region, and in some locations, even more, all in a short period of time.  Social media was extremely busy.  There were countless posts of people thanking kind neighbors for shoveling their driveway.   One woman posted that she ran out of firewood, her primary source of heat, and three people immediately offered to deliver some from their own reserve.  People checked in on sick and elderly neighbors, sharing food and information. 
Hospitals can’t close for snowstorms.  Our local hospitals made provisions for the hundreds of staff members who worked long shifts and slept on cots for two days and nights so they could provide continuous care for their patients.
There were photos of town public works personnel napping after plowing the streets for 20 hours straight to keep us all safe.  I know of one 911 call at 2 a.m., the height of the storm, for a medical emergency.  The ambulance followed closely behind as the town worker plowed a pathway to the house. 
Visiting nurses are used to being innovative — they found a way to deliver the nursing care to those patients who required it, even when it meant climbing over snowbanks and shoveling a path to the front door.  
There is apparently a health benefit from being kind and supportive to others, according to Maia Szalavitz and Bruce Perry, MD, PhD, co-authors of Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential — and Endangered.  “Our brains are designed so that our stress systems can be soothed by social support: in response to the calming words or gentle touch of loved ones, for example, the bonding hormone oxytocin tends to lower levels of stress hormones.” 
During Superstorm Sandy, I volunteered with the Red Cross at the temporary shelter at Fitch High School.  Among the numerous stories that emerged from that experience, my favorite was seeing a very large young man with a shaved head, covered in tattoos, assigned to a cot next to a petite elderly Asian woman.  He escorted her to the dining area for meals, offering his arm in assistance.  Everyone made an effort to be sensitive and assist the mother of a young autistic boy who was having trouble adjusting to the chaos.  In those close quarters, people of all ages and races joined together in collaboration.  The prevailing attitude was, “We’re all in this together.” 
Nobody wants to face catastrophe, but when we do, it is heartwarming to witness how it brings out the best in people. 
Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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