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Asthma is a common condition that causes airways to become swollen and inflamed, making it hard to breathe. Asthma can be an unpredictable and sometimes scary condition. There is no cure for asthma, but you can manage and control your symptoms. GHC-SCW has resources to help with asthma education and care.

 

Respiratory Health and Asthma Education

Interested in meeting with an asthma educator? Please contact your Primary Care Provider and ask for a referral to health education.

 

Clinical Pharmacists

Contact the GHC Capitol, Sauk Trails or Hatchery Hill clinic to connect with clinical pharmacy staff.

 

Outreach for Patients with Asthma

 

To take the asthma control test, please visit the American Lung Association’s website. If your score is 20 or less, this may mean your asthma is not as controlled as it could be. Please reach out to your Primary Care Provider to discuss next steps.

For comprehensive support in managing your asthma, GHC-SCW is here to help. From personal education sessions with our respiratory health educators to expert advice from our clinical pharmacists, we provide a range of resources designed to enhance your understanding and control of asthma. Don’t let asthma manage you—take control by scheduling a consultation or asthma control test today, and ensure you’re equipped with the tools and knowledge to lead a healthier life.

In our fast-paced world, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life. But often, this comes at the expense of neglecting our emotional well-being. Caring for your mental health is as crucial as looking after your physical health. We’ll explore the importance of nurturing your emotional well-being and provide tips to help prioritize your mental health.

 

The Importance of Emotional Well-Being

Emotional well-being refers to your ability to understand, manage and express your emotions constructively. It is vital to your overall health and affects various aspects of your life, including relationships, work and physical health. Here’s why nurturing your emotional well-being is essential:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips for Nurturing Your Emotional Well-Being

Now that we understand the importance of emotional well-being let’s explore some practical steps to nurture it:

Prioritize Self-Care

Self-care doesn’t necessarily mean bubble baths and expensive trips to the spa. (They are nice if they do help you though!) Dedicate time to self-care activities that make you happy, whether it’s reading, practicing mindfulness or pursuing a hobby.

Stay Connected

Maintain social connections with friends and loved ones. A strong support system can provide comfort during tough times. Schedule a coffee date with a friend or visit a relative you haven’t seen.

Exercise Regularly

Physical activity releases endorphins, boosting your mood and reducing stress. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days. You don’t necessarily need to do a grueling fitness class every day. Consistency is key in physical activity, so opt for activities you enjoy, whether it’s riding a bike, swimming or playing pickleball.

Seek Professional Help

If you’re struggling with your mental health, don’t hesitate to seek help from a behavioral health professional. They can provide valuable guidance and support. They can also refer you to helpful resources and programs, like our Foundations Intensive Outpatient Program. Substance use disorders can also hurt mental health. GHC-SCW Primary Care Providers offer compassionate care for substance use disorders, including specialized medication management and a supportive path to recovery.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing, can help you stay present and manage stress. Looking for some simple exercises to get started? Check out the Spinal Breathing Exercise on our YouTube channel. 

Set Realistic Goals

While it’s tempting to do everything, tackling your entire to-do list all at once can be overwhelming. Break your goals into smaller, achievable steps. Make sure to celebrate your successes along the way, too!

Limit Screen Time

Screen time is unavoidable in many careers. For many, computers and smartphones have become essential tools for their jobs. However, excessive screen time, especially on social media, can negatively impact mental health. During your downtime, make sure to set boundaries for healthy device use. It can be as simple as turning off notifications, setting a timer to limit usage and keeping your phone or laptop out of the bedroom.

Get Quality Sleep

Prioritize sleep, aiming for seven to nine hours per night. Quality rest is essential for emotional well-being and vital to your physical health. To create a sleep-friendly space, keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet with comfortable bedding.

Express Gratitude

Regularly express gratitude for the positive aspects of your life. This practice can foster a more positive outlook. One way to do this is to keep a daily gratitude journal. You could start your day positively by writing down the things for which you are grateful. Another way to express gratitude is by taking time before bed to note events that brightened your day. Some events you could note in your journal may include witnessing a random act of kindness or seeing your favorite flowers on your daily walk.

Educate Yourself

Learning about mental health can be powerful in understanding these conditions. You can also be part of the movement to reduce stigma and support others who are struggling with these conditions. Our online health conditions pages provide helpful information and resources on common mental health challenges, such as anxiety and depression.

 

Nurturing your emotional well-being is valuable to your overall health and happiness. Incorporate these tips into your daily life to prioritize your mental health and contribute to a more emotionally fulfilling existence. Remember, seeking help when needed is a sign of strength, and there’s support available for everyone. Your mental health matters, so make it a priority.

Understanding sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is crucial for everyone’s health and well-being. These conditions can affect anyone who is sexually active, regardless of their background or lifestyle. Our goal is to empower you with information that helps you take control of your sexual health and to destigmatize STIs. Regular STI testing is an essential part of maintaining health and wellness.

Male couple smiling and being affectionate with each other

Why STI Testing Matters

Regular STI testing is a critical component of maintaining your health. Many STIs are asymptomatic, showing no signs or symptoms. Without testing, you might not detect these infections, which could lead to more severe health issues. Regular testing is the best way to catch these infections early and start treatment.

Treatment Options

Fortunately, most STIs are treatable. Treatments range from antibiotics for bacterial infections to management strategies for chronic conditions. Early detection through regular testing is crucial. Treating STIs early helps you avoid many long-term health complications.

Female couple laughing and smiling at each other

Breaking Down the Stigma

The stigma surrounding STI testing and treatment is a major barrier. It’s time to change the narrative around STIs. They do not reflect one’s morality or character; they are health issues requiring medical attention. When diagnosing and treating STIs, we believe providers should approach these conditions with empathy and understanding.

Empowerment Through Education

Being informed is your first line of defense against STIs. Understanding how STIs are transmitted, recognizing the importance of regular testing, and knowing the available treatment options enables you to make informed decisions about your health. Education is a powerful tool for preventing STIs and reducing the stigma associated with them.

Taking Action with STI Testing

If you are sexually active, integrate STI testing into your regular health routine. Engage in open conversations with your health care provider and sexual partners about STI testing to create a supportive environment for everyone. Remember, seeking help and receiving treatment is a sign of taking responsibility for your health, not a cause for shame. We encourage you to view sexual health as a vital part of your overall well-being. Actively managing your sexual health is a decisive step towards a healthier life.

Ready to take the next step? Contact your Primary Care Provider about STI testing. An appointment may not be required, so call your primary care clinic today.

Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin (GHC-SCW) is proud to introduce our Autism Spectrum Treatment Program. This program is designed to help kids aged 6 to 16 with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their parents or caregivers. We’ll explain what this program is all about, why it’s helpful, and how you can get started.

Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder

First, let’s talk about ASD, which stands for Autism Spectrum Disorder. It’s a condition that can affect how someone interacts with others, communicates and behaves. Kids with ASD might have trouble making friends and handling their feelings. GHC-SCW wants to help these kids and their families and we’ve created this special program to support their growth and development.

Autism Spectrum Treatment Program Focus and Approach

The GHC-SCW Autism Spectrum Treatment Program is made just for kids with ASD and their parents or caregivers. Here are some key things to know about it:

  1. Home-Based Care: We know that being comfortable at home is important for kids with ASD. Our program happens in your home, where your child can feel relaxed and supported.
  2. Proven Methods: Our program uses techniques proven to help kids with ASD. We want to give our members the best care possible to meet their needs.

Program Details

Here’s how the sessions work:

Getting Started

To join the Autism Spectrum Treatment Program, there are several requirements that must be met:

  1. The child must have a medical diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  2. The child must be able to speak and respond in full sentences.
  3. The home where appointments take place must be in Dane County.
  4. Family must have an active GHC HMO insurance plan (at this time, we are not able to accept other insurance plans for this program). If you have questions about coverage, please contact our Member Services team at (608) 828-4853 or toll-free at (800) 605-4327 and request Member Services.

If the child has all four qualifications, these are the next steps:

For non-GHC-SCW in-network providers, we have provided two helpful online referral forms they can fill out for qualifying patients for this program:

 

ASD Referral for Diagnosis Form

 

ASD Referral for Treatment Form

 

GHC-SCW wants to give our members the best care possible, including those with behavioral health conditions. We strive to support kids with ASD and their families as they work toward better social and emotional well-being. If you think this program will help your child, talk to your primary care provider to see if it’s a good fit.

April: Autism Acceptance Month

April is Autism Acceptance Month, a month that until recently was referred to as Autism Awareness Month. Today, many agree that we have moved beyond general awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorder and strive instead focus on acceptance and inclusion. The shift from Autism Awareness to Autism Acceptance reframes the conversation to focus on intentional inclusion, helps shift societal views on autism toward positivity, and provides a platform to engage the broader community in discussions and challenge misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding Autism. While the characteristics of Autism are not always visible, it often impacts people’s lives in ways we often don’t fully understand or appreciate. With this in mind, here are some resources to learn more about Autism in an effort to make inroads into including, supporting, and celebrating Autistic people.

When we say, “created for you,” we mean it. Accessibility and excellence have long been synonymous with GHC-SCW primary care, which has a history of being one of the highest-rated commercial health insurance plans in the country with a rating of 4.5/5.0 (according to National Committee for Quality Assurance’s Private Commercial Health Insurance Plan Ratings for 2022). No other plan in Wisconsin is ranked higher. We earn that rating consistently because it’s our mission to continually innovate and improve our members’ experience.

So, what makes primary care so special at GHC-SCW? Below are just a handful of ways we center our patients and improve our quality of care.

GHC Experience Guarantee

We want your experience at GHC-SCW to exceed your expectations every time. If your experience at a GHC-SCW clinic doesn’t meet your expectations, tell us about it and at your request we’ll refund the out-of-pocket costs associated with your visit.

This guarantee is just one way we show our commitment to YOU. It’s one way we take your real-time feedback and improve. It’s also Wisconsin’s first and only money-back health care guarantee.

A Team Approach

At GHC-SCW, we believe that quality care requires a team approach. We build a care team of health care professionals around you. It may include pharmacists, behavioral health providers and physical therapists – it varies because it’s designed to meet your unique needs.

Same-Day Access

When you’re sick, a waiting room is the last place you want to be. We will always work to get you seen in the fastest and most convenient way possible when you need care. Whether that’s an appointment with a provider on your care team, an appointment at our Capitol Clinic Urgent Care or even a virtual visit, like a video visit with your own provider.

Our staff works tirelessly to provide timely access to care for our member patients. Three ways we work proactively to make sure we’re available:

  1. Monitoring Our Schedules
    Every day we deliberately hold time across all GHC-SCW clinics to help get patients in sooner.
  2. Assigning Patients Intentionally
    Our primary care providers see a limited group of patients. That helps you consistently have access to your provider when you need it.
  3. Making Appointments Available at Urgent Care
    Urgent Care patients won’t ever sit in our waiting room for hours. We have about 100 appointments open every day.

Finding a Primary Care Provider
The key to optimal health is finding a partner in your Primary Care Provider. By understanding you, your needs and your medical history, we’re able to not only help you manage your care in their clinic but also help you navigate specialty and even hospital care.

Your provider can:

It’s important to choose a provider who understands you, involves you in your care, meets your needs and can be a source of trust. Here are some tips:

Earning the privilege to care for you is why all 800+ of us get out of bed in the morning. Our staff are committed to caring for your whole person with patient-centered, coordinated care.

If you’re interested in learning more or switching to GHC Primary Care, visit https://ghcscw.com/health-care/primary-care.

Our Physical Therapists at GHC-SCW started offering a new lower body strengthening class called Stronger Together! The goal of this class is to help members get back to the sports and activities they love after a lower body injury or surgery. Keep reading to learn more about this exciting new class!

 

Who is Stronger Together for? 

Stronger Together is a class for current Physical Therapy patients who are looking to improve lower body strength, endurance and movement patterns in a group-based setting. The members of the class are looking to return to sports or recreational activities that their injury has limited them in. This class is also for individuals trying to get back to jobs where more physical demands are placed on the lower body. Many individuals in the class have had recent surgeries on their knee, hip or ankle joints.  

 

What do I need to be able to do to participate in the class? 

You need to be a person currently being seen by a Physical Therapist at GHC-SCW. Your Physical Therapist can help to make sure you are ready for the class with the home exercise program you are currently participating in. Participants should be able to tolerate basic squat and lunge patterns and a generalized lower-body strength program with minimal pain. 

 

What are the goals of the class? 

We want to improve your athletic performance, endurance, strength, and coordination to promote a return to sporting and recreational activities. Class participants will get individualized feedback on movement patterns and form from GHC-SCW’s Rehab professionals. Ultimately, we hope to give more opportunities for individuals to complete exercises in a group-based setting to push themselves to try to make more strength gains overall.  

 

When and where is the class? 

The class runs on Monday and Wednesday afternoons for 45 minutes from 3:05 – 3:50 p.m. in the Princeton Club West Group Strengthening Room. Our instructors rotate based on the day but include Paul Jones, DPT, SCS; Jackie Spees, DPT, CSCS; and Kaitlin Stieve, PTA, NASM-CPT. Currently we are scheduling 2-week sessions and the total cost of the 4 sessions is $40. Signup information can be found here. 

June is Pride Month, which is a time to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community and highlight ongoing improvements in health equity.  

GHC-SCW is committed to serving every member of the Cooperative and providing a safe and welcoming environment for all. Equitable access to health care is core to our mission and vision. Gender-affirming surgeries and procedures require post-care management to enhance patient outcomes. This includes consultation and rehabilitation interventions from professionals in our Occupational (OT) and Physical Therapy (PT) departments.  

Musculoskeletal providers at GHC support gender-affirming care. Wendy Parsons, PT and Heather Crandell, OTR, CHT, CLT have answered a few questions below on gender-affirming clinical practices for post-operative patients. 

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What is a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist? 

Wendy: Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy is a specialty practice within physical therapy.  A Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist has taken additional education to assist and treat issues related to the musculoskeletal system of the pelvic region, especially the pelvic floor muscles. Some of the things a Pelvic Floor PT can help people with include leakage of urine/bowels (incontinence), pelvic pain, difficulty with bowel movements, postpartum recovery, and gender-affirming bottom surgeries.  

What can a Pelvic Health PT do for an individual who is planning or had gender-affirming bottom surgery? 

Wendy: Having a pelvic floor PT session prior to gender-affirming bottom surgery can help identify pelvic floor muscle dysfunction and/or weakness and work to improve these. Muscle dysfunction includes muscle activation when they should be relaxing, poor muscle recruitment, and poor coordination of these muscles. Improving pelvic floor weakness can help decrease bladder leakage. Research has indicated that individuals who have addressed pelvic floor dysfunction prior to gender-affirming bottom surgeries maintain these improvements after. For individuals that have, or are planning to have, a vaginoplasty, pelvic floor PT can help them with pelvic floor muscle relaxation and the ability to do vaginal dilation during recovery.  

What is the role of Occupational Therapy for those who have undergone a top-surgery, such as chest flattening surgery or breast augmentation? 

Heather: Occupational therapists help maximize outcomes to return to desired functional activities after surgery and in some cases involving multiple surgeries. These surgeries may come with side effects which can have long term impacts on a patient’s quality of life from sensitization, range of motion, weakness and fatigue, scar tissue adhesions, and pain.  A variety of complications could be mitigated with early rehabilitation post-operatively. An Occupational Therapist will work on a varied of areas of practice based on clients’ needs including but not limited to: musculoskeletal, sexual health, psychosocial, body image, fatigue, and pain.   

Why is scar management so important after gender-affirming surgeries? 

Heather: A scar is an area of fibrous tissue that replaces normal skin following an injury or trauma, such as a cut or burn. Scarring is a natural part of the healing process after surgery but can sometimes require management to ensure that it does not cause additional problems. Scar management helps to normalize tissue pliability, mobility, and sensation.  

The location and amount of scar tissue will dictate the impact it has on functional activities. Below are some of the common difficulties scar tissue can cause: 

 What are other ways PT/OT can support gender affirming care? 

Wendy:  It has been noted in research that the transgender population has a higher rate of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Research also has shown that individuals with more adverse childhood experiences have a higher rate of reported pain issues. This can include neck pain, shoulder pain, or pelvic pain and muscle dysfunctions. Having gender-affirming surgery does not improve these issues specifically. 

An example of this could be an individual that had pelvic floor issues before having bottom gender affirming surgery will continue to have these issues after surgery. Another example is individuals that have increased pelvic muscle tension or difficulty relaxing pelvic floor muscles before having a vaginoplasty may have more difficulty using dilators after surgery. These things can be treated and improved with pelvic floor PT. 

In both PT and OT care, the focus is on improving patients’ outcomes and quality of life. This means it is important to treat the whole individual and develop a plan WITH the patient that is specific to THEIR needs. We believe that caring for the whole person requires a trauma-informed lens to ensure that each patient feels safe and supported during their care, especially given the sensitivity of the nature of this work. 

If you feel you would benefit from PT or OT care, please talk with your primary care provider or specialist about a referral for therapy services. 

Warmer weather is on the way and that means it’s time to get outside, crack the windows and enjoy the great thaw! It also means that unwanted seasonal allergies can spring into action. And because of the mix of warm and cold fronts we’ve had, allergy symptoms might be worse for some this year. But don’t fret, there are plenty of simple steps you can take to reduce your symptoms as much as possible! Here are some tips.

Watch the Weather

Be aware of when the weather could trigger your allergy symptoms. For example, try to stay indoors on dry, windy days when pollen exposure is much higher. The most ideal time to be outside is after rainfall because the wetness helps clear pollen from the air.

Protect Your Sinuses

Wear a face mask if you do yard work and outside chores like mowing the lawn, pulling weeds and gardening. Also consider wearing a face covering during other prolonged outdoor activities like hiking.

Keep the Outside, Outside

Change your clothes when you arrive home, especially after any outdoor activities, like yard work. Shower and wash your hair before going to bed. This will prevent allergens from moving to indoor surfaces, like furniture and bedding.

Clear Air = Clear Head

During your peak allergy season, keep windows closed and use an air conditioner to filter pollen from the air. Use a dehumidifier to keep the air in your home dry and limit exposure to allergens. You can also use the air conditioning if you’re traveling by car.

Medication

Nasal saline (salt water) sprays can be used to clear pollen from your nose after outdoor activities. They also help to loosen any nasal drainage. Over-the-counter remedies like oral and eye antihistamines or corticosteroid nasal sprays can help ease your allergy symptoms, like itchy nose and eyes, sneezing and congestions, during a flare up. If your symptoms of seasonal allergies don’t improve or they worsen, see your primary care provider or schedule a virtual care visit.

It’s been a long winter… now go out and enjoy the thaw!

The holidays can be hard to remember to stay healthy, especially with all the holiday gatherings, sugary drinks, and cookies. But by keeping your health and safety in mind during December, you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe and be ready to enjoy the holidays all season long.

  1. Wash hands often to prevent the spread of germs. It’s flu, RSV, and COVID-19 season. Always wash your hands with soap and clean running water for at least 20 seconds after you’ve gone to the bathroom, before you eat that delicious holiday spread, or even after you’ve left a holiday gathering.
  2. Don’t drink and drive or let others drink and drive. During the holidays, alcohol consumption can increase, leading to a tendency to drink and drive. No matter how many sips you’ve had, choose not to drink and drive and help others do the same by calling a friend, calling a taxi, or requesting an Uber or Lyft.
  3. Practice fire safety. Did you know most residential fires occur during the winter months? Don’t leave fireplaces, space heaters, or candles unattended. And always make sure to keep that glowing Christmas tree away from any heat sources to prevent any potential fires!
  4. Monitor children. With all the excitement of gift-giving and new toys, it’s essential to keep potential choking and health hazards away from children.

We hope you have a happy and healthy holiday season!

During the winter months, you may feel more sluggish or less motivated. There are fewer lovely weather days, you’re trapped inside, and sometimes dark clouds overwhelmingly fill the sky. These symptoms can lead to a winter slump and symptoms of depression, where you may experience a drop in productivity and cause challenges in both your work and personal life. Recognizing those symptoms and finding ways to minimize them is essential for staying happy and healthy all winter long.

What are the symptoms of a winter slump?

  1. Decreased energy, fatigue, or being slowed down
  2. Changes in sleep patterns
  3. Decreased productivity
  4. Changes in appetite

It’s important to note that if these symptoms occur for days or are causing significant interruptions to your life, never hesitate to reach out to our GHC-SCW Behavioral Health Team. You can find their information here. They can help you connect with a provider that may help you with your needs!

So how can you beat the symptoms of a winter slump?

  1. Exercise: A daily 30-minute walk or workout may help minimize depression symptoms. Take a walk on a snowy path and check out the holiday lights in your neighborhood!
  2. Enjoy the sunlight: As little as 15 to 30 minutes can go a long way to alleviate the winter blues. Not a lot of sun in the forecast? There are plenty of artificial sunlight options, like a light therapy box, that can help!
  3. Get enough Sleep: A lack of sleep can affect your mood! Put away your device early each night and try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep.
  4. Moderate Alcohol Consumption: Increasing alcohol consumption during the holidays can also affect your mood! Two glasses of wine are plenty for a holiday party – one if you’ve already had the eggnog.
  5. Adjust expectations: Don’t let the visions of a perfect holiday spoil everything. Learn that most things can be good enough, including gifts, parties, and company.