Wellness briefs: Women’s health report released, Yoga Festival returns

MOTHER LOVE: Mountain Area Health Education Center staffers Maggie Adams, left, and Cindy McMillan provided an overview of MAHEC's doula program for high-risk expectant mothers, SistasCaring4Sistas. Photo by Virginia Daffron

“Buncombe County is doing really well compared to other counties in North Carolina overall,” said Elyse Shaw, a researcher with the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Women’s Policy Research and the co-author of a new statewide report about women’s health unveiled on June 25 in Asheville.

Buncombe ranked No. 9 among North Carolina counties for the lowest number of women’s deaths from diabetes. The county also ranked 13th-best in heart disease and breast cancer deaths and 27th for stroke. Buncombe topped the state in limiting new HIV infections among women but scored near the middle of the pack in infection rates for other sexually transmitted diseases. In all areas except new chlamydia infections, the county improved its numbers since the previous comprehensive study in 2009.

The state, however, didn’t get a great report card: Shaw’s organization gave North Carolina a D in women’s health, down from a D+ in 2013.

N.C. Secretaries Machelle Sanders of the Department of Administration and Dr. Mandy Cohen of the Department of Health and Human Services had been scheduled to appear at the unveiling, held at the Mountain Area Health Education Center off Hendersonville Road, but both were detained in Raleigh in conjunction with efforts to negotiate an expansion of Medicaid as part of the new state budget, staffers said.

The report’s top policy recommendation echoed that theme, urging the state to “close the insurance gap.” According to Rebecca Planchard, speaking on Cohen’s behalf as the senior early childhood adviser for the state DHHS, 300,000 North Carolina women who lack health coverage would receive insurance as part of Gov. Roy Cooper’s proposed expansion of Medicaid.

The report also highlighted differences in health outcomes by race and ethnicity at the state level. Some of the most significant disparities were in infant mortality and low birth weights, with black women delivering low-weight babies at nearly twice the rate of white women. 

Cindy McMillan of the MAHEC program SistasCaring4Sistas, which offers doula services at no charge to high-risk expectant mothers with a focus on women of color, described the program’s beneficial effects as a way to counter some of those disparities. “We reduce the cesarean rates. We have less medical interventions during labor. Apgar scores [that measure newborns’ health] are better. Patient experience satisfaction is through the roof. Higher rates of breastfeeding,” McMillan explained. 

Maggie Adams, a grant program manager at MAHEC, added, “The community-based doula is doing more than just the medical intervention. They’re getting referrals for their clients for housing, for domestic violence, for all of those other social determinants of health that we know about.”

The full report, along with data by county, is available at avl.mx/69g.

Mercy Urgent Care now a VA provider

Eligible veterans can now use Veterans Administration benefits to pay for services at Mercy Urgent Care locations without prior authorization from the VA.

The new access comes as part of the federal VA MISSION Act, which went into effect in June. The urgent care benefit introduced in the act provides access to a wider range of treatment options for non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries.

Preventive and dental services, however, are not included in the new agreement.

According to a press release from Mercy Urgent Care, nearly 24,000 veterans reside in the four counties — Buncombe, Polk, Transylvania and Yancey — in which Mercy operates.

More information about eligibility and the process for using VA benefits at in-network urgent care facilities such as Mercy Urgent Care can be found at missionact.va.gov.

Good to know

  • One-day passes and a special discount for Buncombe County residents are available for the Asheville Yoga Festival, held this year Thursday-Sunday, July 25-28, at locations in downtown Asheville and beyond. Enter the discount code “golocal2019” at ashevilleyogafestival.com.
  • WakuWaku Eatery donated 1,000 origami cranes to Mission Children’s Hospital on June 24. Staff and customers folded the cranes, each with the wish that children at the hospital will get well quickly.
  • Asheville Salt Cave announced it will move to a yet-to-be named location this fall. 
  • Epiphany Wellness Center opened at 542 N. Oak St. in Hendersonville, where it offers outpatient services for eating disorders and disordered eating, as well as child and family therapy.
  • A $13,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Henderson County boosted AdventHealth Hendersonville programming aimed at preventing falls among adults older than 65. A $12,000 CHFC grant, augmented by an additional $5,855 from the AdventHealth Foundation, financed AdventHealth’s purchase of two new vapotherm respiratory units for patients requiring portable oxygen support.
  • The N.C. Center for Health and Wellness at UNC Asheville received a three-year, $863,000 grant to support the development of community-based programs to manage diabetes across the state. The grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

People in health care

  • Orthopedic surgeon Dr. John Songer joined Harris Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, which has offices at Harris Regional Hospital locations in Sylva and Franklin. Harris Regional also added cardiologist Dr. Scott Westermeyer.
  • Triage nurse Shawn Costanzo of AdventHealth Cancer Services received the DAISY award, which recognizes the benefits of the care provided by nurses.  
  • Advent Health Hendersonville added board-certified anesthesiologist Dr. Jacob Hansen, psychiatrist Dr. Catherine Louis, hospitalist Dr. Steven Hauser and dermatologist Caludia Sotomayor.  
  • Dr. Janet Bull, Hendersonville-based Four Seasons’ chief medical and innovations officer, received the organization’s inaugural Visionary Award. Four Seasons provides end-of-life care and services in 11 Western North Carolina counties.



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About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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