Have you heard the term ‘health navigation?’ You’re not alone if the answer is ‘no.’ Although our repertoire of health-related terms and definitions has certainly grown during COVID, health navigation is often not covered in mainstream news. However, it plays a critical role in the work of many healthcare organizations and the Mercy Housing Resident Services programs.
For Mercy Housing, health navigation is the pivotal intersection of health and housing that offers improved access to healthcare resources for residents to prioritize their overall well-being. Trained staff on the Health Navigation team help residents overcome barriers to access through a myriad of different resources, programs, and classes. Finding a primary care physician, organizing vaccine clinics, and offering support groups are a few ways this is done.
Because of support from donors, we can offer these crucial resources to help residents become advocates for their own health.
Mercy Housing was awarded a substantial grant from Colorado Access in 2021 which helped aid our health navigation initiatives. Colorado Access is a local, nonprofit healthcare company that serves members across the state. The grant focused on increasing access to telehealth/telemedicine services at Mercy Housing communities across the metro Denver area. These funds helped provide new laptops and tablets at several locations to support residents as they created a pathway into the digital health world.
Manley, Healthcare Navigation Specialist in Colorado, was excited to implement telehealth services to offer important benefits to residents. Telehealth helps eliminate transportation barriers, provides comfort and convenience in scheduling appointments, reduces exposure to germs and illness at the doctor’s office, allows easy access to healthcare records, and assists in monitoring personal health measurements like blood pressure, weight, and heart rate.
Keesha, Health Navigation Specialist in the Midwest, has a primary focus on food insecurity. Onsite food pantries have helped eliminate barriers to food and provide residents with supplemental food and personal hygiene items throughout the year. This service depends heavily on community partners and the onset of COVID paused many of the distributions Mercy Housing relied on in Nebraska, making it challenging to offer fresh produce to residents at the pantry.
Prior to March, Lincoln Fresh made weekly stops at Mercy Housing communities in Lincoln to deliver fresh goods to residents — delivering nutrient-packed products on their mobile truck. Although the truck was temporarily parked, Keesha continued to work with Lincoln Fresh to maintain this service, and by offering fresh fruits and vegetables at the onsite pantry instead. Residents scheduled a time to pick-up produce right in their own community space. Having these essential services available helped ease the burden and pressure many families felt to put food on the table.
Shae, Health Navigation Specialist in the Southwest, is dedicated to ensuring residents are thriving and living a happy, high-quality life this year through increased technology use for healthcare access and decreased social isolation.
Linking more residents to technology helped them connect to online wellness resources and stay in touch with friends and family. Digital platforms not only helped with telehealth initiatives, but they also offered residents the ability to learn new skills and even get exercise. Shae recorded several original videos on nutrition and exercise and shared it with residents.
Moreover, digital platforms help reduce social isolation by offering a plethora of ways for friends and family to stay connected. Whether it’s a Zoom call with grandma or FaceTime with your best friend, keeping these personal relationships thriving helps maintain a healthy emotional and mental state of mind.
2021 was a busy year for the Mountain Plains Health Navigation Team, as they implemented exciting and innovative ways to encourage better health.