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Hospital lauds reference book

Jeremy Heiman

Some say every family should have a medical reference book, one that tells a lay person what symptoms mean, how serious an injury is, how to care for minor complaints at home and when to call a doctor.

But such a book hasn’t really been available to the local public. Until this year, that is.

The Aspen Valley Medical Foundation is now distributing a book called “Healthwise Handbook” at Aspen Valley Hospital and at health care agencies, doctors’ offices and some churches up and down the Roaring Fork Valley. And it’s free.

The book is a 370-page, soft-cover volume that’s actually available nationwide. But the cover on the version distributed locally is custom-printed for the foundation.

Kris Marsh, executive director of Aspen Valley Medical Foundation, said the foundation’s board had been looking for some time for a community health education tool that could be given to hospital patients and perhaps distributed in the community. “Healthwise Handbook” was discovered by AVH patient education coordinator Rita Marsh (no relation) at a conference in Chicago last year. Rita brought a copy back and showed it to Kris.

“It was perfect,” Marsh said. “I took one look and said `This is what we’ve been looking for.'” Dr. Scott Gallagher, an Aspen Valley emergency-room physician, reviewed the book and gave it a thumbs-up. The foundation ordered 7,500 copies, 5,000 in English and 2,500 in Spanish.

Distribution of the book kicked off last summer. Rita Marsh and Lourdes Coombs, language resource coordinator at AVH, got a booth at last summer’s Latino Festival of the Mountains in Carbondale and handed out more than 200 copies of the book in a single day.

“The response was incredible,” Kris Marsh said. The book is now available at several departments within AVH and at numerous agencies, including the Family Visitor Program, Pitkin County Human Services, the Aspen Counseling Center, Response, Mountain Valley Developmental Services, the Garfield County Probation Office and Columbine Home Health Care.

It’s distributed where it can be given away in a one-on-one situation, Marsh said, so that each recipient understands the value of the book before receiving it.

“I think the key aspect is we want to give them away personally, rather than in a wholesale way,” Marsh said, “to establish a connection between the book and the person who receives it.”

“Healthwise Handbook” provides information on every complaint from prickly heat to heart disease to osteoporosis. It gives the reader advice in simple language on how to treat ailments at home and tells what symptoms mean. Each section has clear instructions on what symptoms should trigger a call or visit to a doctor.

“It empowers people,” Marsh said. “It helps them to really focus on what’s going on with them and then helps them decide whether to call a health care professional.”

The book also has sections on first aid, reproductive health, mental health, substance abuse, alternative health practices, exercise and how to stock a home medicine cabinet. It’s organized so topics are easy to find.

Several hundred copies of the book have been given out already, Marsh said. The foundation intends to give away enough so that everyone who wants one can have it.

“We’ll be prepared to reorder if people want them,” Marsh said.

The Aspen Valley Medical Foundation is a donor-supported organization. It provides assistance to Aspen Valley Hospital, helps qualified individuals and families with medical and dental expenses and funds local nonprofit health and human service organizations in the valley. For more information or to obtain the “Healthwise Handbook,” call Kris Marsh at (970) 544-1298.


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