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Halloween is right around the corner, and we know you and your family are eager to wear your best costumes and head out into the neighborhood.

Here are some tips for staying safe this Halloween: whether you’re going trick or treating this year or heading to a costume party.

1) We know you might want to don your dark costume when out trick or treating this year, but it’s essential to ensure you’re well seen! Add bright reflective tape to any costumes that might be dark colored.

2) Makeup is an essential part of any costume! Be sure to test the makeup you plan to wear at least 24-48 hours in advance by putting a small amount of it on your arm or on the arm of the person that will be wearing it. Check back to see if the skin has any reaction.

3) Don’t wear decorative colored contact lenses! These types of contact are at high risk for eye injury and can lead to permanent eye damage. Reach out to a GHC-SCW eye care professional for more information!

4) We know it’s tempting to eat your sweets early, but only eat your candy once it has been inspected at home. Inspect all candy for signs of tampering, such as unusual appearance or discoloration, tiny pinholes, or tears in wrappers.

5) Stay warm! We understand you may have spent all season planning out the perfect costume, but Wisconsin weather can change at the drop of a hat. Be sure to layer up by adding a sweatshirt or long sleeve t-shirt under your costume.

Whether you’re heading out to trick or treat or staying home next week, we hope you have a very happy Halloween!

October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast Cancer knows no gender, and GHC-SCW wants you to be informed of the risks and methods you can use to monitor yourself for symptoms.

 To understand more, we sat with Kristen Ruf, GHC-SCW Medical Imaging Manager and Dr. Kathryn Ledford to understand more about how you can self-check yourself for signs of breast cancer and information about the process of getting a mammogram. 

How can I self-check for lumps or signs of breast cancer?
While current recommendations from the United States Preventive Service Task Force no longer recommend teaching a self-breast examination, they encourage awareness of one’s body and its changes. In my practice, I advise regular self-checks and “knowing your breasts,” as I believe my patients know their bodies better than any clinician. Use the finger pads of 3 fingers to apply gentle pressure in a circular motion around the breast – you can “scan” up and down or in a circular motion, so long as you are sure to check all parts of the breast, including under the areola and the armpit.

How often should I self-check for lumps?
There is no clear recommendation for the frequency of self-checks, and I recommend that my patients check “regularly” – consider monthly to one’s cycle or on the first of the month. If you have a menstrual cycle, check at different times to note the changes in your breasts based on your varying hormone levels throughout the month.

If I find a lump, what should I do?
Call your clinic. Your PCP may want a clinical breast exam or recommend you start with a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound.

When should I start getting mammograms?
The USPSTF recommends starting mammography screening at age 50 and every other year. This recommendation considers the pros and cons of screening, early detection, the possibility of false positives, and data from millions of people. That said, recommendations vary between clinical groups, and many still consider preventive screening reasonable for persons with breasts in their 40s. I always consider a patient’s personal history, family history, and preferences. I ask them to consider, “What will I do if I get called back for further evaluation?” “Will I feel better knowing I had the screening done?” “If I get a false positive scare, will I keep up with regular screening in the future?”

What is the process of a mammogram?
An order for a mammogram is placed by your PCP. You then call GHC Hatchery Hill to schedule your mammogram there. You will meet with a radiology technician who will perform the exam at the appointment. The mammogram is like an x-ray of your breast; you will need to undress (top only), and each breast will be examined. The radiation from a 3D (tomosynthesis) mammogram is comparable to having 2-3 chest x-rays.

If you see something on my mammogram, what are the next steps?
Mammograms are “graded” by the reading radiologist to determine the best next steps for evaluating any abnormalities seen on the mammogram. Possible next steps include ultrasound, repeat mammogram at a closer interval, and maybe even a biopsy. You will have clear guidance from the radiologist and your PCP to determine the next steps.

Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the histories, cultures, and contributions of Hispanic Americans to the U.S. 

At GHC-SCW, we are proud to celebrate this month and support a more inclusive health care system. In honor of this month, we sat down with Catalina Heshusius, GHC-SCW Language Services Supervisor, about what Hispanic Heritage Month means to her, how she celebrates it, and the importance of the work done by Language Services.

1. What does Language Services do for our Spanish-speaking population? 

We help to improve the quality of their health care and, thus, health outcomes by ensuring that their communication and language needs are met in interactions with their providers and GHC services, including navigating their benefits and accessing community resources. At GHC, we are pioneers in being not only translators and interpreters but also advocates who help bridge the cultural gaps for our Spanish-speaking members. 

In our Language Services department, we embrace cultural diversity. We are proud to have a team of members fluent in Hispanic cultures to help break down the day-to-day barriers to communication.

2. How does a patient access Language Services? 

For Spanish, they may call Language Services at 608-661-7215, and for Hmong or Laotian at 608-663-2940.

They may call reception or our call center for all other languages and will be connected with Pacific Interpreters. 

3. What is celebrated during Hispanic Heritage Month? 

This month, from September 15 to October 15, we celebrate and honor 500 years of Hispanic and Latin American cultures and contributions to the United States. This month is a time to share the history, heritage, and accomplishments of the past and present Hispanic and Latin Americans.  

4. How many people in the U.S. speak Spanish as their first language? 

In the United States, more than 43 million people speak Spanish as their first language (about 13 percent of the population), which continues to grow. Additionally, the United States is home to nearly 12 million bilingual English- Spanish speakers. The U.S. Spanish-speaking population is comparable to Spain, Colombia, and Argentina.

5. What’s the difference between Hispanic and Latino/a? 

Hispanic refers to a person who is from, or a descendant of someone who is from, a Spanish-speaking country. 

Latino/a or Latinx refers to a person from, or a descendant of someone from, a country in Latin America. 

For example, someone from Brazil is considered Latino/a but not Hispanic, and conversely, someone from Spain is Hispanic but not Latino/a.

6. How can you help celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month? 

We can all help celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by cherishing the generations of Hispanic Americans who have significantly shaped and enhanced our country and civilization. Language Services is thankful to be a part of their lives and to have them in ours. 

We are proud to support this community and appreciate their contributions every day. Here are some ways to contribute:

– GHC-SCW employees are encouraged to join our ERG Amig@s, open to everyone, including those who do not identify as Hispanic or Latin. We often get together to celebrate these cultures.

Practice your Spanish. The U.W. offers a conversation table on Tuesdays from 5 to 7 pm at Union South.

Visit the Wisconsin Latino Chamber of Commerce website to view the list of businesses to support, such as: 

· La Taguara: Venezuelan & Latin Cuisine (Madison)

· Mishqui Peruvian Cuisine (Monona) 

· Taqueria Gonzalez (Middleton) 

· Compadres (Middleton) 

· Los Gemelos (Madison) 

· Monona Bakery (Monona) 

– Participate every Thursday in the community market, Mercadito, at the Centro Hispano from 4 to 7 pm.

Read some excellent literature in Spanish, even the translated versions. García Márquez himself read the English translation of Cien Años de Soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude) and pronounced it better than his Spanish original.

Some of my favorites….

· Cien Años de Soledad (Gabriel García Márquez)

· Rayuela (Julio Cortázar)

· Don Quijote (Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra)

· La Casa de los Espíritus (Isabel Allende)

· Aura (Carlos Fuentes)

· Laberinto de la Soledad (Octavio Paz)

· Arráncame la Vida (Ángeles Mastretta)

Watching Hispanic and Latinx movies, such as:

· Amores Perros 

· Coco

· Encanto

· Diarios de Motocicleta

· Biutiful

· Como Agua para Chocolate

· El Secreto de sus Ojos

7. What is your favorite way to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month? 

Language Services team’s answer:

Back-to-school time can be a bit crazy for some, especially with homework, pick-ups, and sports. In between all of this, it can be hard to make time to see your GHC-SCW provider. GHC-SCW makes it easier with virtual care options so you can see your provider right from the comfort of your home and busy schedule with GHCMyChart Video Visits! 

We sat down with Julie Vander Werff, PA-C, and Nancy Alt, Telehealth Program Manager, to understand more about the dos and don’ts of Video Visits.

To prepare for a video visit, what should I be aware of as a patient?

Is there something I should not do to prepare for my visit?

What are the best practices for a video visit as a patient?

What shouldn’t I do on my video visit with my provider? 

Do you have other tips or advice for patients using MyChart Video Visits?

Please visit here for more information on GHCMyChart Video Visits and other virtual care options.

August is Psoriasis Awareness Month. With over 3 million cases per year in the U.S., you probably know someone with psoriasis. To understand the inflammatory skin disease and learn more about treatment options, we sat down with Shane Berken, PharmD, about his experience treating GHC-SCW members with psoriasis and a cost-saving research study he conducted to help those that suffer from the disease.


What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic, inflammatory skin disease that comes in multiple forms. The most common form is plaque psoriasis, which is characterized by raised skin patches (plaques) covered with scales which can be itchy. The extent of the affected area varies widely from person to person, but some commonly-affected areas include the elbows, knees, lower back, and scalp. Patients with psoriasis often have comorbidities such as joint pain (psoriatic arthritis), obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Psoriasis affects 1-2% of the U.S. population, with an even prevalence between males and females, and it has a strong genetic link.

What is the typical regimen for taking care of psoriasis and managing a patient’s psoriasis?

The approach to treating psoriasis varies depending on the severity of the patient’s disease and existing comorbidities. Topical therapies are the mainstay for most patients with mild-moderate psoriasis. Corticosteroids are generally the most effective of the topical therapies, but other topicals are often used in combination with corticosteroids. Phototherapy, which is a treatment that emits a type of UV radiation, administered in clinic or by a special home device is an effective and safe therapy when topicals fail to adequately control disease or when large quantities of topical therapies are required. Oral therapies such as methotrexate can be used for more severe disease and are usually reserved for patients who have tried other treatments. Biologic medications are the most effective type of treatment for severe disease. These are injected under the skin by patients as frequently as twice per week or as infrequently as every 3 months. The cost of biologics therapies is much higher than other treatments, and thus they are reserved for patients whose disease is not adequately controlled with multiple other therapies.

You completed research for GHC-SCW using a different cost saving medication for members with psoriasis! Can you explain what that research was?

At GHC-SCW, we are constantly looking for ways to reduce the cost of medications to our members.  This can result in lower copays at pharmacies and lower monthly premiums. For our members with severe psoriasis who required a biologic therapy to control their disease, GHC-SCW worked with our partners to reduce the cost of one of the newer and most effective biologic drugs for psoriasis.  By doing this, our members gained access to a very effective and safe therapy at a lower price for the cooperative. The change had a positive impact on members in two ways. The first way is that members who were currently using an alternative biologic therapy were switched to the newer therapy.  The second way is that members had access to this therapy when they required treatment with their first biologic. During the transition to the newer biologic, we kept track of our members who were using it to make sure it worked as well as expected.

What were the results of that research? Did you patients/members see an improvement in symptoms in addition to less costs?

GHC-SCW is excited to report that the initiative to lower costs and improve outcomes for our members with psoriasis was a remarkable success.  Most of our members experienced some improvement in their skin compared to what they were achieving with their prior biologic, and the members who had complete control of their skin before making the switch did not lose that control. These impressive results were achieved while also reducing costs.

How can GHC-SCW members work with the clinical pharmacy team to adjust their medication for psoriasis and other diseases?

GHC-SCW’s Clinical Pharmacists are well-trained pharmacists who work with our patients and their GHC-SCW care teams to optimize drug treatments and help reduce cost when possible.  Some of the ways clinical pharmacists help our patients include: assisting providers with prescribing choices, drug interactions, and dosing; gathering and reviewing a patient’s full list of medications and making recommendations to optimize therapy; meeting with patients directly to address concerns about side effects, drug interactions, drug costs, and more; educating patients about lifestyle and drug treatments, prescribing drugs, and monitoring labs for some chronic diseases.  For access to these services, members may reach out to their GHC-SCW provider or GHC-SCW pharmacy!

With fall high school sports starting in the upcoming weeks, high school athletes and parents need to be ready to prevent injuries so they can stay in the game!

This week, we sat down with Shannon Jegla, DPT and Rebekah Steidinger, DPT, to learn more about common injuries in high school athletes, what it means to get a concussion, and how to prevent injuries before they happen.


Back to school is coming up, meaning high school sports are coming back! Are there any common injuries you see in athletes?
Unfortunately, we will see an increase in ACL tears in young athletes beginning this fall and continuing throughout the year. The sports with the highest incidence are soccer, basketball, and football; we see them more commonly in our female athletes. Outside of more acute injuries, we are seeing more and more overuse injuries in young athletes who are now at a level within their sport that requires year-round training. These include stress injuries to bones and tendons.

What can athletes do help prevent these injuries, on the field and off the field?
When it comes to overuse injuries, cross-training is essential. Doing the same motion most days or daily can overload the tissue, especially in growing bodies. Using “off days” to rest from the sport is important. Still, it can also be helpful to move in different ways than your sport demands—think swimming or yoga for a running athlete or lacrosse or baseball for a hockey or basketball athlete. Variety is key!

On the field, it is vital to have proper, well-fitted equipment or footwear on the field and to ensure those stay in good shape throughout the season. And listen to your body! If something happens during practice or a game that doesn’t feel right, talk to your athletic trainer or coach and let them know what is happening. Ignoring the problem isn’t going to make it go away.

Concussions are a big concern in sports like football, soccer, and even swimming! What happens when an athlete gets a concussion?
Concussions, or mild traumatic brain injuries, can occur from a direct impact to the head or a rapid movement of the brain within your skull. This leads to physical, mental and emotional symptoms due to chemical changes in the brain and mechanical stresses to your neck. The body and brain are typically very good at healing after a concussion if given proper treatment and rest. Symptoms can happen immediately but sometimes can be delayed for several hours after injury, so you should always take yourself out of any gameplay if you feel like you may have experienced a concussion. Symptom duration will last days to months, depending on the person and situation.

Why should parents/high school athletes be concerned about concussions in sports?
Concussions are essential to prevent, identify and treat correctly as they can affect many aspects of your life. The most common symptoms include difficulty with cognitive tasks and concentration, memory issues, headaches, dizziness, balance deficits, sleep issues, neck pain, mood changes, and sensitivity to light and sound. They can also take longer and be harder to heal from the more concussions you experience.

Is there anything athletes can do to prevent concussions?
One meaningful way to prevent a concussion is always wearing a helmet when needed on the field, on a bicycle, skiing, or in any other activity where you are at risk of sustaining a head injury. It is also important to play smart and avoid making illegal contact with other players. With any sport that involves stunting, make sure always to use spotters in a safe environment. If running or biking outside for conditioning or sport, make sure you are visible to cars and others around you. Game administrators can do their part by ensuring that equipment is in good condition, tripping hazards are minimized, and fields are in good condition. If you sustain a concussion, it is crucial to avoid any activity that may risk a repeat injury to the head and be evaluated by a medical provider.

What advice would you give to athletes before starting their season?
Pre-season preparation and progressive conditioning after a scheduled rest period is the best way to ensure your body is ready for the demands of your sport. If you have any nagging injuries, make sure you connect with your coach and athletic trainer to have a plan in place to manage them. Adequate sleep, proper nutrition, and consistent hydration are part of the foundation of injury prevention, especially as the school year gets rolling and busier.



Dr. Mark Huth, Chief Executive Officer, writes about the updates made to GHC-SCW’s Mission, Vision, and Values.



This year marks 46 years that Group Health Cooperative has provided health care as a not-for-profit, member-owned health care cooperative. We started with more than 500 founding members from our community who knew there was a better way to provide health care by bringing together health insurance and health care for the benefit of members.

While we honor our history, we also embrace our responsibility to evolve our organization continually. Over the last several months, the Board of Directors and senior leadership has been working on an update to the Mission, Vision, Values and Strategic Pillars that will carry us into the future.

Today, on behalf of our Board of Directors and the entire Senior Leadership Team, I’m proud to share these updates with you, our members.

Our Mission speaks to who we are and why we exist.

Mission: We partner with members and the communities we serve to maximize health and well-being.

Our Vision represents who we aspire to be.

Vision: As a local, not-for-profit, member-owned Cooperative, we are the most trusted resource for lifelong health and well-being in the communities we serve.

Our Values are a set of beliefs that we hold dear that help us identify priorities for the Cooperative and a guide for how we conduct our business.

Our five strategic pillars are essential areas of focus, investment and effort that help us advance toward achieving our Vision and fulfilling our Mission:

So, what’s next? The update to our Mission, Vision and Values and introduction of the new Strategic Pillars now form the foundation for the strategic plan. Over the coming months, we will be developing the goals that will help us measure progress toward our Strategic Pillars as well as the tactics that will make a measurable impact on those goals.

What has been completed so far is only the beginning as we look ahead to our next chapter for Group  Health Cooperative. I’m looking forward to sharing with you as we fill in those future chapters and continue to build on our 46-year history.

Celebrating Juneteenth

On June 19th, 1865, slaves in Galveston, Texas were informed that the war had ended and that they were now free. We also know that, regardless of the law, free for Blacks did not mean the same thing as free for Whites. From lynchings to Jim Crow to earning our right to vote and mass incarceration, slavery and all its mutations continue to wreak havoc on the Black community to this day. Violent and outright racist actions are still reasoned away, forgotten about, or even worse, never even noticed by well-meaning White individuals. However, those of us on the Black spectrum, from light-skinned to dark, know these atrocities on both a visceral and everyday level. Being Black in America, you are regularly reminded of your second-class citizenship through microaggressions, institutionalized racism and outright racism.

​What so many White people take for granted, us Blacks don’t have the luxury of forgetting. Our freedom is one traffic stop, angry outburst, unjustified 911 call, fight, self-defense action, sundown town, wrong suspect etc. away from being taken. As a Black person in America, you walk the line of free or not free, everyday! Free until freedom is taken away. Slavery by another name: Inmate. So, while the original Juneteenth was over 150 years ago, we celebrate and rejoice in the semi-freedom we do have.

We honor our history, our struggles and sacrifices, knowing that our freedom is fluid, precious and to be protected. We remember the courage, faith, resilience and blood that paid for our freedom. We celebrate our survival and ability to thrive regardless of the visible and invisible chains that remain. We take solace in the knowledge that so much work remains to be done, but we don’t have to do it alone.

This year we ask all members of GHC to be BOLD when dealing with diversity, equity and inclusion. B-Belief that a better world can exist, and we can help to create it. O-Owning the moment. This is our chance as Black employees to share a tiny glimpse of our story. L-Lean in. It’s time to lean in closer when you feel yourself pulling away. Take that as a sign that you are doing something you’ve never done before. It’s natural to feel discomfort, but that does not mean stop. D-Deliver. We say as an organization that we want diversity, equity and inclusion. Here is a chance for us to stop talking and start walking! Our collective joy is an act of resistance and transformation. Show up and show us that you care.

Lead is a metal found in many places. However, the most common sources of lead exposure are lead-based paint chips and the dust created when painted surfaces age or are disturbed.

Although it was banned for residential use in 1978, lead is still found inside and outside homes built before 1978. Exposure to lead can cause various problems for everyone, both young and old, but particularly for those under the age of two. 

This week, we sat down with Dr. Kathryn Ledford to learn more about blood lead screening in kids. 


What is the importance of blood lead screening?

Lead is a toxin that is dangerous to young children under two years old because of their small size and how quickly they grow and develop. Kids exposed to lead could end up with long-term lead poisoning, and long-term lead poisoning can lead to behavioral and learning difficulties, anemia, seizures and other medical issues. Lead testing is also the only way to know if someone has lead poisoning!

Who should be getting blood lead screening?

All children from 9 months to 24 months should be screened for lead poisoning. 

How does blood lead screening work?

Lead screening is done by conducting a blood test performed in the laboratory. The preferred method of collection at GHC-SCW is a blood draw. 

How does someone get exposed to lead?

Lead is a metal found in older homes that have been painted with lead-based paint. Sometimes lead is in specific work environments and water supplies. Kids under two years old are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning exposure if they are often in environments with high lead levels. 

What are the symptoms of lead poisoning?

A child could show no symptoms of lead poisoning. Some kids may experience constipation, nausea/vomiting, learning disabilities, fatigue, loss of appetite, hyperactivity, and irritability. If your child experiences any of these symptoms and you think they may have been exposed, reach out to their doctor!

What can you do to prevent lead poisoning?

-Avoid contact with old paint in your home. 

-Do not renovate or remodel until your home has been inspected for lead.

-Use wet paper towels to pick up dust or wet mop dust in the house rather than using a broom.

-Keep toys off the floor, particularly anything placed in the mouth.

-Wash hands before eating – every time!

-Provide foods rich in calcium, iron and vitamin C, which prevent lead absorption.

-Keep shoes at the door to avoid tracking dust from the garage, porches, and yards.


Head to for more information on the importance of Blood Lead Screening.

May Mental Health Awareness Month

With Mental Health Awareness month coming to an end , it’s important to reflect on ourselves.

Sometimes, we may need some extra help with our mental health. And that’s okay! Normalizing taking care of our bodies and minds is something that GHC-SCW encourages and embraces.

At GHC-SCW, we have many behavioral health services available to help you take the first, second, third or even fourth step to taking care of your mental health and well-being. Although May is coming to an end, every day is a good day to start taking care of yourself.

GHC-SCW Behavioral Health Department

You can learn more about GHC-SCW’s behavioral health programs here. Different options are available to help with your behavioral health needs, including class options, resources, programs, crisis hotline information and more.

Primary Care Behavioral Health

Our Primary Care Providers (PCPs) and Behavioral Health Consultants work together on your care team to support your overall physical and emotional health..

Working with Primary Care Behavioral Health means making the right plan for you. Once you’ve identified your needs, the Behavioral Health Consultant and your PCP will work with you to help you get those needs met and accomplish your goals.

GHC Foundations – Intensive Outpatient Program

GHC-SCW also has a program called GHC Foundations Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). This new program benefits patients who are either stepping down from higher levels of care or could use more intensive services than outpatient therapy and medication management.

The GHC Foundations Intensive Outpatient Program features group therapy, psychotherapy, wellness and more elements. Patients will have the opportunity to practice skills while exploring symptoms and experiences in a safe environment. You can learn more here.

GHC Care OnDemand Teletherapy

As a GHC-SCW member, you also have 24/7/365 access to behavioral health services through GHC Care OnDemand*, which makes therapists accessible via virtual therapy appointments, also known as teletherapy. Therapists specializing in addiction, stress, depression, child and adolescent issues and much more are available through GHC Care OnDemand. Visits are free* for most members.

Learn more about GHC Care OnDemand and Teletherapy here.

*Members with BadgerCare, Medicare or HSAs have restrictions or limitations. Members with HSA-eligible plans must reach their deductible before visits are free.