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February 16, 2022
Hi explorer

Director's Letter:
SWCAHEC is honored to support practicing healthcare providers with the education and training necessary to provide competent care to tribal, rural, and underserved communities.
We work to create and sustain clinical/community linkages to address the many forces that contribute to health disparities and that impact the wellness of community members in SW Colorado. SWCAHEC is working with providers, community organizations and community members to strategize about social needs revealed during clinical screenings. Using regional data and clinical feedback about patient experiences with social determinants of health, SWCAHEC has developed educational programming to address these needs and improve patient health.
In social needs screening data from clinical settings in our region, food insecurity has repeatedly been the greatest barrier to health for our region. Recently, the organization finished a survey of health care providers on attitudes and perceptions of food insecurity and is currently building programming to address stigma reduction, knowledge of resources, and strengthening clinical-community linkages in SW Colorado. SWCAHEC staff has developed trainings and resources around food security for diverse community members including an indigenous cookbook and related training about native food systems for healthcare providers. We are proud to partner with the many amazing organizations in our region providing education and food to community members; their dedication and innovative approach to tackling hunger and nutrition is an inspiration to us every day. Please join us in learning more about the role that food insecurity plays in our health and about how we can honor the work of organizations providing food resources in our region.
Kate Hartzell
Executive Director, SWCAHEC

What are the Social Determinants of Health

The World Health Organization defines the Social Determinants of Health in the following ways:
The social determinants of health (SDH) are the non-medical factors that influence health outcomes. They are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life. The SDH have an important influence on health inequities - the unfair and avoidable differences in health status seen within and between countries. In countries at all levels of income, health and illness follow a social gradient: the lower the socioeconomic position, the worse the health.
The following list provides examples of the social determinants of health, which can influence health equity in positive and negative ways:
• Income and social protection
• Education
• Unemployment and job insecurity
• Working life conditions
• Food insecurity
• Housing, basic amenities and the environment
• Early childhood development
• Social inclusion and non-discrimination
• Structural conflict
• Access to affordable health services of decent quality.
Source: Determinants of health (

Did You Know?

According to the 2020 RMHP AHCM screening results,
food insecurity represents the most prevalent social need across Western Colorado:
28% of people screened reported food insecurity.
SNAP collage
The Accountable Health Communities Model (AHCM) project analyzes current social needs screening data to identify patient needs and assess gaps in community resources. As part of a grant to Southwestern Colorado AHEC, funds were awarded to educate about SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, reduce the stigma of food insecurity, and encourage individuals who need food assistance to enroll.
ACHM partnered with SWCAHEC among other organizations, to raise awareness of the food assistance program and actively promote the SNAP Social Media Campaign.

How SWCAHEC is spreading the word on FACEBOOK

  • Posting fun, eye catching, and informative SNAP content
  • Adding hashtags to increase traction and reach
  • TAGGING partners in our posts
  • Boosting paid posts (as needed to expand reach)
  • Sharing the SNAP posts with our partner organizations
We are also distributing SNAP posters to health partners to raise awareness. If you are interested in receiving collateral or receiving social media posts for your own social platform, please reach out to

Food Insecurity and Food Assistance Program Survey

68% of healthcare providers in Western Colorado think patients are not comfortable discussing food insecurity
As part of our work with the AHCM social needs screening project with Rocky Mountain Health Plans, SWCAHEC administered a survey to healthcare providers and medical office staff across Western Colorado in the Fall of 2021 to learn more about their knowledge and perceptions of food insecurity and food assistance programs. SWCAHEC collaborated with PEACHnet, a practice-based research network out of the University of Colorado Department of Family Medicine, to develop and administer the survey. The results provided insight into the level of knowledge healthcare providers and medical office staff have about food insecurity and providing food resources to their patients, as well as associated stigma related to food assistance programs. Survey results helped to inform our food insecurity outreach and education in the community and to develop a related training on food insecurity, impacts on health, and related stigma.

Food Insecurity and Stigma Training

SWCAHEC staff Heather Sorensen will be offering a virtual 2-part training on February 17th and 24th intended for healthcare providers and medical office staff, although anyone is welcome to attend. The training is entitled Food Insecurity as a Social Determinant of Health and Breaking the Stigma of SNAP. This training offers the opportunity to gain knowledge and awareness of food insecurity as a social determinant of health, details about the SNAP food assistance program, and perceived associated stigma of enrollment in assistance programs.
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This training includes communication strategies for discussing sensitive social needs with patients and demonstration video vignettes of patient conversation topics regarding food insecurity in the clinical setting. CME credit will be available through the AAFP and additional training dates to be announced for late Spring and Summer.

A Conversation About Native Food Systems with Chelsie Begoody

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In November, SWCAHEC staff member Chelsie Begoody and Brandon Francis, the Education Resources Coordinator from the Agricultural Science Center at New Mexico State University in Farmington NM gave a presentation titled “Indigenous Food Systems and Impacts on Health.” This presentation focused on food insecurity as a social determinant of health and explored traditional foods and their role in Native American culture. Chelsie presented on indigenous food system disruptions throughout history and how these disruptions have impacted the health of tribal communities. Brandon shared his work in Indigenous Food Sovereignty and discussed successful education and gardening projects on the Navajo Nation that have increased access to fresh and healthy food.
What do you mean when you say indigenous foods?
Chelsie Begoody: Indigenous foods are a combination of the food itself, where it is grown, the communities it is serving, how it makes us feel, what it does for our bodies, and how it connects us to the land. Some people define indigenous foods as the diet of Native American communities pre-contact and others recognize the role that history and oppression play in native diets.
How has history changed the foods eaten by Native American community members?

Chelsie Begoody: The traumatic experiences of Native Americans under systems and policies that demanded forced assimilation led to a decrease in access to traditional foods. The loss of cultural identity that resulted from years of oppression also led to a loss of knowledge about traditional foods which in turn led to reliance on foods that were introduced through federal programming like the Commodity Food Program. Foods introduced through this program provided low nutritional value and have contributed to increased risks for disease.

How has the re- introduction of traditional foods helped to increase wellness in native communities?

Chelsie Begoody: Learning more about traditional foods has reminded us that our food has sustained us for centuries, nourishing our bodies and spirits and connecting us to the land. This knowledge has reconnected us to who we are and where we come from.

Sneak Peak of Indigenous Cookbook

SWCAHEC is putting together an Indigenous cookbook called Hózhó Meals. It is a compilation of pre-existing Indigenous recipes shared throughout Indigenous communities to address food insecurity in the Southwest Colorado region. This book will serve as a resource for healthcare providers to share with patients to promote accessible and affordable Indigenous meals. In the book we share quotes, stories, and pictures as a way for the cook to connect with the food. There are also nutritional facts that explain the benefits of eating certain types of indigenous meals.
Below is a SNEAK PEAK of the cookbook.
Indigenous Cookbook 2022
SWCAHEC Values Local Partners Working to Provide Food to our Region

SWCAHEC works with local organizations providing food to community members in Southwestern Colorado. These organizations are dedicated to providing high quality, nutritional food that will positively impact health in our region.

Good Food Collective

The Archuleta County Food Coalition

The Montezuma Food Coalition

SWCAHEC Health Careers Institute 2022

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Calling all Students!
10th, 11th, and 12th grade students from any of the eight Colorado counties: Archuleta, Dolores, Hinsdale, La Plata, Montezuma, Ouray, San Juan & San Miguel, and the Four Corners Region are invited to apply for the summer SWCAHEC Health Careers Institute. The Institute is a FREE opportunity to learn about exciting career prospects in the healthcare field and receive mentoring. Sign up here
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