Healthy Returns 2017-01-28T09:39:13+00:00

Healthy Returns

Jean White of El Dorado was excited when she read about the South Arkansas Center on Aging three years ago. Now 70, she was looking for a place to exercise that catered to someone her age, and she’s been a regular there ever since. “When I found out about it and visited the center, I knew it would be a good fit for me,” said White, who stays healthy with regular use of the center’s walking track and tai chi classes. “And I tell all my friends about it.”

The Center on Aging at El Dorado, staffed by geriatric specialists, is one of eight such centers in Arkansas established by the UAMS Arkansas Aging Initiative and supported by money from a multi-state legal settlement with the tobacco industry.

Arkansas’ portion of the settlement totals about $50 million a year. The money has been devoted entirely to improving the health of Arkansans since November 2000, when voters overwhelmingly agreed to the plan drawn up by state leaders.

UAMS has four programs that are supported by the tobacco settlement: the Arkansas Aging Initiative, a program of the UAMS Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and community partners; the Arkansas Biosciences Institute; the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health; and the Delta Area Health Education Center (AHEC).
Since 2001, the UAMS programs have received $69.2 million of the $443.6 million tobacco settlement dollars, about 16 percent of the state’s total share.

Using Leverage
UAMS Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson notes that UAMS has made the most of its share of the tobacco money, leveraging its $69.2 million to generate an additional $178 million from public and private sources.

“By successfully leveraging these tobacco dollars, we have greatly expanded our biosciences research, our health outreach services, and we’re at the forefront in developing strategies for improving public health,” Wilson said.

While UAMS leads the state in biosciences research, it also collaborates with its Arkansas Biosciences Institute partners: the University of Arkansas (UA), Fayetteville; Arkansas State University; Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute; and the UA Division of Agriculture.

Tacking Preventable Diseases
The UAMS College of Public Health was established in 2001 with the understanding that Arkansas’ poor health status is about more than improving basic medical care. Doctors and nurses are not traditionally trained to help people address their tobacco addiction or control their obesity, but the College of Public Health is providing that additional training with its 16 degree programs.

Today’s major sources of chronic disease often result from preventable lifestyle issues, such as tobacco use, obesity and lack of exercise. In fact, these lifestyle issues are the major factors in the three leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer and stroke.

The college has moved quickly to tackle these issues, with researchers leveraging almost $44 million from outside sources. The college was fully accredited in less than three years, the fastest accreditation for any college of public health in the country.

Into the Delta
The ability to leverage the tobacco settlement dollars doesn’t end with UAMS’ research; the Delta AHEC has secured public and private grants totaling $4.7 million in addition to the $11.2 million in tobacco money since 2001. Housed in a two-year-old 25,000-square-foot facility in Helena-West Helena, the Delta AHEC was established to provide vital health outreach in one of the poorest, least healthy regions of the country.

The AHEC, one of eight UAMS AHECs in Arkansas, has four clinical rooms, a fully equipped gym and three classrooms to deliver a variety of public health topics.

Reaching the Elderly
Only a few years ago, Arkansans who needed specialized geriatric care had to travel to Little Rock — a challenge for older drivers and time intensive for their caregivers. Thanks to the tobacco settlement money, the UAMS Arkansas Aging Initiative’s eight Centers on Aging put 90 percent of elderly Arkansans within 60 miles of quality geriatric care.

At each site, an interdisciplinary geriatric health care team includes a specially trained geriatric social worker, a geriatric nurse practitioner and a geriatrician. Arkansas is the only state to offer such an extensive health care network for older adults.

The tobacco settlement has provided between $1.5 million and $2 million a year, but to fully support its Centers on Aging, the Arkansas Aging Initiative has worked to secure more than $6 million in gifts, grants, contracts, and donated time and space.