CHOP

The staff of the Community Health Outreach Program says they are here to serve the health education needs of the community. The staff includes (from left) Miranda Akalski, Director Lee Ann Anderson, Mandy LoPresti and Amanda Lucas.

When most people hear about the Town of Parker’s Community Health Outreach Program, they may recall it was once the La Paz County Public Health Education and Prevention Program, and it was initially focused on tobacco prevention. However, as Director Lee Ann Anderson noted March 23, they do much more today.

Anderson said they are involved in health education issues and activities around the county. She and her staff, which includes Miranda Akalski, Amanda Lucas and Mandy LoPresti, serve the entire county, not just the Town of Parker.

Anderson said they follow the mission set for the Arizona Department of Health Services of promoting education on health matters.

The program is active in all the schools in the county, Anderson said. One of the things they do is teach young people about sexually-transmitted diseases. Their approach is based on building self-esteem among students. The approach is also abstinence-based, which Anderson said makes it a good fit for the community,

“We educate kids to be safe,” she said.

They also have the Teen Solutions program, with its focus on alcohol, tobacco and drug prevention.

Another program they are involved with is “Families in Action.” This is similar to the Parenting Academy run by the Parker Area Alliance for Community Empowerment, but it’s geared more towards families with teenagers. Anderson said they try to get young people and their parents talking to each other and having more effective communication.

One of the other areas the program focuses on is nutrition education. They work with Amanda Rowse at the Arizona Health Zone, which was formerly SNAP Education. They provide nutrition education to low-income families and individuals, including those on government assistance.

They also operate the Community Garden at the Parker United Methodist Church. Part of the goal here is to teach people, especially children, about the “farm to table” process.

Something that developed during the coronavirus pandemic was their “Food for Thought” videos. Anderson said they previously went to area food banks, saw what they had available, and created recipes and prepared interesting and nutritious meals from what they found. With the pandemic meaning they can’t do live demonstrations for the time being, they have put these videos online at www.healthylapaz.org. Anderson said they have made about 30 videos.

The Healthy La Paz Program is another program operated by the Community Health Outreach Program.

They are also concerned with chronic diseases. They operate the support-education group “Finding Meaning & Hope” for families and caregivers of those with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. LoPresti said the group focuses on dealing with the emotional ups and downs, and the members provide each other support and share their experiences.

“The program is awesome,” LoPresti said.

Anderson teaches Tai Chi for Life, a program that uses the Asian exercise program of Tai Chi to better improve overall health and well-being. She said a major benefit of Tai Chi is fall prevention. She said her biggest classes have been in Brenda, but she also holds classes in Parker and Quartzsite.

They are also involved in car seat education and installation.

The program also partners with other agencies to better serve county residents. These include the Parker Public Library, Colorado River Regional Crisis Services and the County Probation Department.

One of the biggest events they host is the Community Health Expo, which is usually held in April. This year, due to the pandemic, Anderson said it will be held online as a virtual expo during the month of May.

“We usually get over 500 people and more than 40 organizations that show up,” she said. “We thought that might be a little much.”

Anderson said individuals can go to www.healthylapaz.org and visit the “virtual” booths of the agencies participating. They can also sign up for giveaways and prizes.

Funding for the program is 100 percent grants from the state, with no cost to the Town.

Anderson urged people to learn more about what they do and what services they provide.

“We’re a partner for the community,” she said.

“We are here for the public,” LoPresti said.

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