Empowering Others to Learn about Health Insurance - No Matter What Age

Co-pays, co-insurance, premiums, and deductibles – terms we are sure you have heard before, but do you know what they mean and why how they impact your healthcare decisions?

When it comes to health insurance, it’s never too early to get yourself familiar with the lingo and variety of plan options. Even if you’re on your parent’s health insurance until 26 years old, the more you learn early on the more you improve your health literacy skills to better understand complex healthcare systems and make those important healthcare decisions.

Recent Portage High School graduates, Kelsey Blankenheim and Trina Miller know all too well about this as the two recently teamed up to create a formal presentation about health insurance for their health careers class. Blankenheim and Miller took the initiative to speak in front of their peers at Portage High School and employees at Divine Savior Healthcare about the importance of understanding health insurance, no matter what age. This initiative was supported and co-directed by Nancy Ziegler who teaches the Health Science Occupations courses at Portage High School.

Blankenheim and Miller stress in their presentations, that according to the American Medical Association Foundation, “individuals with low health literacy have an average annual healthcare cost of $13,000, compared to only $3,000 for those with high literacy levels.” This $10,000 healthcare savings says a lot about the advantages of being able to comprehend health insurance.

Blankenheim and Miller wrapped up their presentations this month with a Lunch and Learn for employees at Divine Savior Healthcare. From the pre and post-surveys collected throughout the presentations they stated, “We realized the success in the presentation when we looked at the post-surveys and noticed that the questions people got incorrect on the pre-survey they corrected on the post-survey. This assured us the information we were presenting our audience retained.”

The presentations the students are doing are part of a larger initiative started by the Portage Health Literacy Committee (PHLC), whose mission is to improve healthcare communication for better understanding and overall better health throughout the community. The committee is working towards addressing health literacy concerns in the community and launching a community based project to bring awareness on health insurance—understanding its importance and how to use it in the healthcare system.

PHLC is a collaboration of Divine Savior Healthcare, the Portage Community School District, and the South Central WI-AHEC (Area Health Education Center). The committee has been in collaboration since January of 2016 and has held a student workshop educating on health insurance literacy, collected surveys on the community’s understanding of health insurance, and formalized presentations to educate youth at Portage High School and employees at Divine Savior Healthcare.

Blankenheim shared, “I really recommend this great learning opportunity to all health seeking career students. It is one great project I can put on my resume all throughout college and could potentially be a unique topic on my resume to make me stand out.”

The goal for PHLC is to continue efforts with new student groups presenting and creating new ways to educate the community on health insurance and navigating the healthcare system. If you’re interested in learning more about PHLC’s efforts, please contact PHLC Committee Chairperson, Caitlyn Mowatt at cmowatt@dshealthcare.com or (608) 745-5996. 

Photo Caption: 2017 Portage High School Graduates, Kelsey Blankenheim (left) and Trina Miller (right) discuss the importance of understanding health insurance, no matter what age.

Portage Health Literacy Committee members:
Divine Savior Employees— Kari Due, Linda Krueger, Sue Lynch, Brandie McReath, Caitlyn Mowatt, Hannah Reitzner
Portage High School—Nancy Ziegler
South Central WI-AHEC (Area Health Education Center)—Wendy Hinz

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Experiencing a dull pain in the pit of your stomach

Stomach PainGastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, and gallbladder disease are two very common disorders. Knowing which one you have may be trickier than you think. Symptoms may be vague, such as a “dull pain in the pit of your stomach”, making it hard for you to explain to your doctor what’s exactly going on.

At Divine Savior Healthcare, General Surgeons, Dr. Eric Anderson and Dr. Joshua Pogorelec, have seen many patients with these symptoms and after further examination are able to help  diagnose and treat both diseases.

What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease GERD refers to stomach contents moving into the esophagus causing a burning sensation commonly referred to as heartburn. Other symptoms may occur as well, such as pain in the upper abdomen, bloating, nausea and an acid taste in your mouth.  If this continue, prolonged exposure of the esophagus to stomach contents can result in damage to the lining of the esophagus.  This in turn can result in difficulty swallowing, pain with swallowing or permanent damage to the esophagus.

Although not all reflux results in symptoms or damage to the esophagus, common symptoms include:
• Heartburn
• Acid regurgitation
• Belching
• Difficulty or pain when swallowing
• Waterbrash sudden excess of saliva
• Dysphagia the sensation of food sticking in the esophagus
• Chronic sore throat
• Laryngitis
• Inflammation of the gums
• Erosion of the enamel of the teeth
• Chronic irritation in the throat
• Hoarseness in the morning
• A sour taste
• Bad breath
• Coughing at night

What is gallbladder disease?
The gallbladder is located below the liver on the upper right side of the abdomen. The main function of the gallbladder is to store bile, which is made in the liver and allows fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients to be easily absorbed into the bloodstream. Any condition that affects the gallbladder is considered a disease, and there are many different scenarios that fall under gallbladder disease:
• Inflammation
• Gallstones
• Common bile duct stones
• Biliary Dyskinesia
• Infection
• Perforated gallbladder
• Gallbladder polyps
• Porcelain gallbladders
• Gallbladder cancer

Dr. Anderson and Dr. Pogorelec share "the most common disease of the gallbladder is gallstones. Most people with gallstones do not even know they have them.  Once they cause problems, the gallbladder may need to be removed. Symptoms include pain below the right rib cage or in the “pit” of the stomach. This pain may radiate to the right upper back, chest, or shoulder. Other symptoms may include, bloating, nausea or vomiting, fever or chills, chronic diarrhea, jaundice yellow-tinted skin, or unusual lighter-colored stools or dark urine.”

After taking a closer look at GERD and gallbladder disease, Dr. Anderson and Dr. Pogorelec are able to provide helpful insight on common distinguishing factors between the two diseases.

Common distinguishing factors:
• Location: Although both may feel like a “pit in your stomach”, if you experience symptoms located closer to your throat or in your chest it is more likely to be GERD related. Symptoms located near your right lower rib radiating into your right upper back, chest and shoulder are more likely to be associated to your gallbladder.
• Pain: Unlike GERD, gallbladder pain usually begins suddenly, and changing positions, belching, passing gas or taking medications rarely helps pain symptoms go away.
• Timing: With heartburn being the most common symptom of GERD, symptoms of reflux are likely to occur shortly after eating, where symptoms of gallbladder disease usually occurs several hours after eating and have more consistent patterns of reoccurrence the same time each day.

What does treatment look like?
The symptoms of GERD are commonly and effectively treated with over-the-counter medications such as anti-acids and proton pump inhibitors. However, if relief does not go away from these medications your provider may recommend you be evaluated by one of our surgeons at Divine Savior.

After a thorough history and physical, our surgeons may recommend further evaluation of the esophagus and stomach with endoscopy.  Similar to colonoscopy, but without the need for prep, upper endoscopy allows the surgeon to visualize the esophagus, stomach and intestine to evaluate for damage to the esophagus, infection and a hiatal hernia.  Depending on the findings, further testing may be indicated to evaluate the function of the esophagus. 

Patients with severe GERD benefit from surgery to prevent reflux from occurring.  This procedure is commonly performed by both Dr. Anderson and Dr. Pogorelec, is minimally invasive, and very effective at treating GERD.  In fact, most patients no longer require any antacid medications after the procedure.

If you are found to have stones in the gallbladder causing symptoms, the best course of action is to have the gallbladder removed.  Leaving the stones in place will continue to cause pain and may result in serious infection of the gallbladder and bile ducts, jaundice or pancreatitis. 

Both Dr. Anderson and Dr. Pogorelec routinely perform minimally invasive removal of the gallbladder.  This is most often an outpatient procedure and very successful.  After a short recovery, most patients will find their symptoms are gone and they are able to live a normal life. 

If you experience symptoms related to GERD or gallbladder disease, or have concerns about either, it is best to consult your provider for further examination. Treatment for either disease varies person to person, but taking action immediately and being properly treated can help you prevent problems from worsening.

To schedule an appointment with Divine Savior Healthcare General Surgeons, Dr. Anderson or Dr. Pogorelec, call 608-745-5176.

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