School-Year Strategies: Is your child being bullied at school?

Kids often choose to bear bullying silently, rather than tell an adult. According to a 2012 survey, children inform an adult only 40% of the time. And because you can’t help when you don’t know there’s a problem, it’s important for parents and caregivers to know the signs of bullying and help kids be prepared for the possibility.

Bullying online and off

Any behavior that is unwanted, unfriendly, and often repeated over time is considered bullying. Making threats, spreading rumors, launching physical or verbal attacks, and intentionally excluding individuals from groups are all examples of bullying.

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Cyber bullies – also called haters and trolls – may send unkind text messages or emails, distribute rumors by email or on social media sites, or post or send embarrassing pictures, videos, websites or fake profiles – often anonymously. Cyber bullying can occur day or night with dramatic effect, because it can reach a large audience quickly.

Know the warning signs

Bullying can happen to anyone. Some children become targets because they are disabled or socially isolated, or because of their sexual orientation. Every child who is bullied may not show signs, but there are telltale signs:

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“Children do not always show the same textbook symptoms when they are bullied,” says Katie Swan-Potter, NP-C, a pediatric nurse practitioner at the Martin’s Point Brunwick-Baribeau Drive Health Care Center. “Some shut down, become more introverted or sleep less. Others act out, become difficult to restrain or become bullies themselves. When there are also physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches or digestive issues, we always consider bullying as a possible cause.”


Prevent bullying before it starts

We all want to protect our children and make sure they feel safe at school, during sports and other activities, and throughout their community. You can help by encouraging your child to talk with you about anything. “A strong relationship between parent and child can be instrumental in their ability to withstand the stress of social pressures and teasing,” adds Swan Potter.

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Another key strategy: help your child build resilience. In the Youth Voice Project, researchers surveyed more than 13,000 students in 31 U.S. schools, and found the steps below can help kids cope with stressful situations, like bullying:

  • Make family time a priority.
  • Encourage your child to have positive relationships with adults outside of your immediate family.
  • Encourage your child to pursue hobbies and interests.
  • Create opportunities to connect with kids outside of school.
  • Help your child learn how to solve problems.
  • Encourage your child to ask for help when necessary.
  • Urge your child to help others and acknowledge the impact he or she makes by helping.
  • Help your child understand that people may act unkindly to others.


If you think your child is a victim

If you suspect your child is being bullied at school, talk to his or her teacher and school officials right away and work together on a plan. This is especially important if events are harming your child’s ability to sleep, eat, learn or participate in other daily activities.

Don’t hesitate to involve your child’s health care provider. Bullying can have long-term health effects on young people, including significantly increasing risk for depression.

“You are your child’s most important advocate,” adds Swan-Potter. “It’s best to seek help sooner, before issues escalate.”

The Martin’s Point Health Care Pediatrics Team is ready to help with advice about bullying – and every other aspect of your child’s health. Learn more about our providers, locations, and services at our website.

Martin’s Point’s CEO testifies before Senate Committee on Aging

Innovative, Tailored Care Models for Maine’s Seniors

Washington, DC (October 3, 2018) – Martin’s Point Health Care, based in Portland, Maine, is implementing forward-thinking programs and care models to meet the health care needs of the state’s rapidly growing, mostly rural, and chronically ill senior population. That was the message Martin’s Point President and CEO, David Howes, MD, shared at an October 3 hearing of the Senate Committee on Aging, chaired by Maine Senator Susan Collins.

Maine health care providers, including Martin’s Point, are on the front line of tackling a collection of senior health care challenges other states will face in the years ahead. Maine’s average population age is rising faster than that of any state in the nation. Projections show that, by 2020, those over the age of 65 in Maine will outnumber those under 18—a statistic that is 15 years ahead of the national projected date of 2035. Adding to the complexity of this issue, 31 percent of Maine’s senior population lives below 200 percent of the poverty line and 51 percent lives in rural areas.

In describing their innovative approach to caring for a this progressively aging population, Dr. Howes highlighted the fact that Martin’s Point provides Maine seniors with both direct patient care and Medicare health plans. This unique combination of services allows the organization to leverage health care information to inform targeted and closely managed care, resulting in improved patient outcomes and experience and driving down costs.

 “I regard our [health plan] care management programs as some of our best innovation work at Martin’s Point,” said Dr. Howes. “They continue to illustrate to me that the little things can make a big difference.”

In his Senate testimony Dr. Howes described several programs that illustrate this strategic approach to delivering care, managing costs and helping seniors live independently. These programs feature a care model that emphasizes close care coordination and chronic disease management. Some of the programs included in the testimony include:

  • A home-based comprehensive care program tackling all factors that impact health, including physical, emotional, social and environmental. As part of the program, patients are screened for mental illness, addiction and depression. More than half of invited members in the home-care program are accepting nurses into their home for the first visit and then inviting them back.
  • A pilot program for patients with congestive heart failure, providing in-home assessments, education on symptoms and telemonitoring devices for participants. The effort led to significant improvements in members’ medication adherence, as well as decreased hospital admissions and a nearly 70 percent reduction in readmissions.

To read the full testimony from Dr. Howes, click here.

Back to School Part 3: Time Savers

Six Ways to Make School Mornings Easier

Sometime between the OJ flash flood on the kitchen counter and the frantic search for last night’s math homework, morning calm slips into morning chaos. Sound familiar? Take heart. Getting out the door smoothly often feels like mission impossible for a lot of families, no matter how good our intentions. But it may be that all you need to make mornings smoother are a few simple strategies.

1 | Get your kids to bed on time.
What does last night have to do with today? A rested kid wakes up with less fuss and is better prepared to zip through morning routines, well, routinely. To be well-rested, your school-age child needs 9 to 12 hours of sleep every day; your teen needs 8 to 10.

“While it may be difficult to stick to a new school schedule, ensuring that children get the sleep they need is essential to learning and growth,” says Torah Tomasi, M.D., a pediatrician with Martin’s Point Health Care. “I can’t emphasize the importance of setting a regular wind-down routine and bedtime enough.”

Freshen up on healthy sleep habits HERE.

2 | Get yourself to bed on time.

Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep to keep a lid on stress, maintain a decent mood and function at full capacity. As tempting as it can be to relish your downtime at the end of the evening, do yourself a favor. Skip the extra episode of Ozark and turn in.

3 | Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier than usual.

You’ll be amazed the difference it makes to unload the dishwasher and get yourself ready for the day before it’s time for everyone else to get up. You’ll feel calmer. You’ll be able to focus on what your kids need. And when a mini-crisis pops up, you can take it in stride.

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4| Prep breakfast and lunch the night before.

Plan a healthy breakfast and stage everything you can. Making scrambled eggs? Crack, beat, and store the eggs in an airtight container in the fridge, and set the pan on the stove. Pre-slice and refrigerate a cantaloupe or strawberries. Put whole wheat bread and plates by the toaster. Set up the coffee maker.

Make your kids’ lunches – or have them make them – and stow them in the fridge. At the very least, set out lunch boxes and pack non-perishables like apples, dried fruit and nuts. Then place a cutting board and bread so it’s easy to make sandwiches and pop in other items that need refrigeration – like yogurt, cheese and cold packs – in the morning.

5 | Pack the night before.

Help kids create and follow a get-ready-for-school checklist to pack their school bags ahead and avoid last-minute scrambles. They may need help thinking about the next day – do they need a musical instrument for band or sneakers for gym class? Then set their backpacks by the door, ready to grab and go.

If you’re heading out the door along with your child, pack your belongings – laptop, water bottle, workout gear, phone, sunglasses, etc., and set your bag by the door. Establish one place for your car keys – maybe a hook or shelf near the door – and make sure they’re in place.

6 | Plan outfits and set out clothes.

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Anyone can get bogged down by having to decide what to wear under time pressure. That’s easy to dodge by having each family member set out everything they will wear the next day. “Asking kids to learn to take care of themselves on a schedule – preparing clothes, school supplies and more the night before – is a perfect way to teach responsibility,” adds Tomasi.

Give these tips a try! Your self-discipline and preparation are sure to pay off in more smiles and calmer send offs – for both you and your child.

Back-to-school tip: Are you child’s immunizations up-to-date? Has he or she had a physical exam in the last 12 months? Get your child’s school year off to a healthy start with a visit to the Martin’s Point Health Care pediatric team. Learn more and give us a call today.

Back-to-School Part One: Start the School Year in Good Health

While you’re chasing down backpacks, binders and back-to-school shoes, make time for these important to-dos and set your child up for a healthy year.

Annual physical exams. A yearly visit gives your child’s doctor a chance to assess and record your child’s developmental, emotional and social health. It’s an important touch point for sharing information about everything from growth to sleep to eating habits and keeping vaccinations current.

Some schools offer on-campus physical exams to clear students to play school sports. While these exams may be convenient, they should not replace an annual appointment with your child’s pediatrician.

“Yearly wellness checks allow parents and providers to create a team approach to a child’s health care,” says Torah Tomasi, M.D., a Martin’s Point Health Care pediatrician. “They give also us a better view of progress and development, so we can better understand what is normal for your child and detect any issues that may be emerging.”

If you haven’t already established a regular time for an annual exam, call for an appointment today. (Then add a reminder on your calendar to set up next year’s appointment to help you stay on track.)

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Vaccinations. State law dictates , with limited exceptions, thatchildren who attend all public and most private schools provide evidence of receiving all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Legality aside, keeping your child’s immunizations up to date is an important safeguard against potentially dangerous diseases, from chicken pox to meningitis.

“Vaccines are one of the best defenses we have against serious, preventable diseases – diseases that most of today’s parents have never seen,” says Tomasi. “Vaccines help individuals and families stay healthy, and help protect communities by reducing the spread of diseases.”

Many of the recommended immunizations for school age children are completed by age 7. Another set is indicated for middle schoolers between ages 11 and 12, plus a meningitis booster for kids in their late teens. Fall is also time for influenza vaccines for all ages – and many schools make this easy with free clinics.

For a complete picture of your child’s needs, refer to these recommendations for 0 to 6 years and 7 to 18 years.

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Medications. If your child needs medication during the school day, you have a little extra homework. It might help to think of it in steps:

  • Get sign off. In most cases, parents need to provide written consent and authorization from their child’s doctor for a child to be given medication at school. Find out your school’s requirements now, and complete any required forms.
  • Provide essential information. Make sure any medication you send goes in the original container and is labelled with:
    • Your child’s name
    • Medication name
    • How much to give and how often to give it
    • How to administer the medication
    • Your child’s pediatrician’s name
    • The prescription date and expiration date
  • Double up at the pharmacy. Have your pharmacist divide medication into two bottles – each labelled – so you can send one to school.
  • Plan ahead. Talk with your school administrators about how to handle medications during field trips and other outings, and mark your calendar to remind yourself to replenish the school supply of your child’s medication as needed.

If your child is college-bound, connect with health center staff to find out what they need from you, how to handle prescription refills and whether other university staff (like a resident advisor) should be aware of your child’s situation. Before your child leaves home, talk about potential side effects of any medication, including how it may interact with alcohol.

If you have questions on any of these points, give your child’s doctor a call. Otherwise, follow the checklist below to make your way through these tasks, and you can be confident you’ve given your student a healthy send off.

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Four Local Walks with Great Views

Add spark to your summer walking routine with new scenery and greenery, and you might just be tempted to go an extra mile.

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Southern summit walk. A new one-mile trail loops the summit of Mount Agamenticus, making it easy to enjoy amazing views as far as Cape Ann and Mount Washington while you walk. Park at the summit and follow Big A trail. A great choice for people with physical limitations, this trail is designed for universal access.

Add a climb: Park at one of the lots along the access road, then set off on Ring Trail. Follow Ring to Witch Hazel to make a gradual ascent to the Big A summit trail (just over 2 miles). Return the way you came, or consult the map and take a different trail down.

Directions and more information.

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Urban ocean walk. The 2.1-mile Eastern Promenade Trail affords some of the best views of Portland Harbor and Casco Bay – and easy, level walking on either pavement or packed dirt/stone dust. With parking at either end (along Commercial Street on the harbor end; off Marginal Way on the Back Cove-end) or at the East End Beach, you can access the trail any way you like.

A favorite loop (about 2 miles): From East End Beach, take Eastern Promenade Trail toward Back Cove. After the water treatment facility, look for Loring Stairs on your left (marked). Take the short climb to Loring Memorial Park and savor views of Portland, Back Cove and beyond before following the sidewalk along Eastern Promenade (the street) back toward Portland Harbor. Pick up Midslope Trail on your left. This under-used gem traverses the hill with great ocean views, and ends East End Beach.

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Northern coastal walk. Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park in Freeport is honeycombed with more than three miles of gentle trails that meander from dense pine forest back toward Casco Bay. Our route saves the water views for last. From the parking lot, follow  Old Woods Trail. Turn right turn onto Harraseeket Trail, left onto Hemlock Ridge Trail, and left again to rejoin Harraseeket. Soon you’ll catch a glimpse of the shore, and then the trail follows the shoreline, eventually joining Casco Bay Trail. Pause to savor ocean views from the rocky shore and look for osprey or sea glass before a short hop to the parking lot.

Make it longer: Continue along the shore on White Pines Trail, overlooking scenic salt marsh.

Directions and more information.


Eastern Trail marsh walk. 
This out-and-back walk features Maine’s largest saltwater marsh as your backdrop. Start at the southern end, where the ET crosses Pine Point Road, or at the northern end, near Black Point Road. The 2.2-mile stretch features a flat, 10-foot wide path, leaving plenty of room for passing cyclists and runners. Keep an eye out for snowy egrets, great blue heron, and more wildlife as you cross the Scarborough River. Directions and more information (see map 6 on the downloadable map).

Before you head out, choose a distance that suits your fitness level and bring water to stay hydrated. Then share your review, or tell us where you love to walk, and inspire others to stick with walking, too!

Martin’s Point Health Care makes an impact on Riding To The Top programs

Donation and employee volunteer time support equine-assisted activists and therapies.

Martin’s Point Health Care recently contributed $1,000 to support Riding To the Top’s summer programs, but a group of employees wanted to do more! So nine members of the Martin’s Point Health Care marketing team signed up to do “whatever is needed” and found themselves directed to the horse paddocks.

Executive Director, Sarah Bronson, noted “In order to offer our services we need happy and healthy horses. Keeping their living spaces clean is vital to their health—and with a herd of 18, there is constantly work to be done!” According to Bronson, community volunteers and corporate work groups donated nearly 12,000 hours last year, working in lessons, caring for horses and maintaining the facilities.

Russ Phillips, Martin’s Point Manager of Marketing and Community Engagement, added, “Our group really enjoyed seeing Riding To The Top staff in action working with a client rider. It brought home the value of this organization’s work in our community and we left knowing our volunteer efforts were supporting a great cause.”

About Riding to the Top

Riding To The Top Therapeutic Riding Center (RTT) was founded in 1993.  Our mission is enhancing health and wellness through equine assisted activities and therapies. Located just west of Portland in Windham, Maine, RTT is the state’s only year round PATH Intl. accredited center (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International) solely dedicated to Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies. More than 250 clients visit annually, assisted by certified instructors, a herd of 18 horses and over 160 volunteers, all specially trained to assist with therapeutic riding, carriage driving and hippotherapy. Riding To The Top is a community-based nonprofit, receives no federal or state funding and provides scholarships to over 60% of its clients.  For more information about client services, volunteering, or making a gift, please visit us at www.ridingtothetop.org or call 892-2813.

Break Out of Your Walking Rut with These Dog-Friendly Trails

mpg_PHO_Blog_DogWalk_0618_v02This summer, make exercising your dog less of a chore and more of an adventure, with destinations that will get you both jazzed about walking. Here are four of our Portland-area favorites, guaranteed to get tails wagging.

  1. Mackworth Island Trail, Falmouth

Ideal for walkers who prefer level ground, this trail traces the island perimeter, offering nearly constant views of gorgeous Casco Bay. The 1.25-mile loop makes it easy to add laps if you’re so inspired. There are several spots where you can dip down to the shore and let your pup cool off. Dogs must be on-leash (the island is a bird sanctuary). Parking is limited and the State Bureau of Parks and Lands charges a small fee. Details and directions.

  1. Pine Point Beach, Scarborough

Make the most of the dog days of summer by walking sandy Pine Point Beach. From mid-May through Labor Day, dogs are welcome off-leash on the southern end of the beach under voice control from sunrise to 9 a.m. – perfect for early risers. Prefer evening? Portions of the beach are open to dogs on-leash from 5 p.m. to sunset. Morning or evening, avoid posted areas where access is restricted to protect shorebirds. Check the latest regulations at the town web site. Type “Chapter 604” in the search bar to download key info.

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  1. Stroudwater Trail, Portland

Escape from the hot sun into a shady tunnel of green on the Stroudwater Trail, part of the Portland Trails network. The 3.3-mile trail follows the Stroudwater River west – all the way to Smiling Hill Farm in Westbrook. If that’s too ambitious, simply turn around wherever you like. The single-track trail is well-shaded for the entire route, and mostly level until you cross under the Turnpike, with bridges and boardwalks to cross wet areas. Park just off outer Congress Street off River’s Edge Drive in Portland.

  1. Twin Brook, Cumberland

A gem for dogs and owners alike, this scenic 250+-acre park is divided into two sections with opposite off-leash hours, so there’s always an option for well-behaved dogs to romp at will (Tuttle is off-leash from opening to noon; Greely from noon to close). There’s plenty of parking at either the Greely or Tuttle Road entrance, and both give easy access to 4-plus miles of trails through rolling fields and woods. Details and directions.

Whatever destination you choose, bring bags to clean up after your dog, obey posted rules for leashing, parking, and so on. Bring water along for your pet (and you) to re-hydrate. Let us know your favorite, and happy trails!

Farley Fighters Join Forces with Community to Combat Cancer

It was no surprise to anyone familiar with the cancer-busting efforts of the “Farley Fighters” that they recently won the inaugural George Campbell Community Impact Award at Martin’s Point Health Care. Recognized for their long-term, targeted commitment to fighting cancer, this core group of staff at the Martin’s Point Brunswick–Farley Road Health Care Center have united with their fellow employees, patients, and local nonprofits to make a difference in the health of our community.

Making Strides Walk

It all started fourteen years ago, when a small team at the Brunswick–Farley Road Health Care Center took part in the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk. Over the next few years, support for the annual walk grew and the group wanted to do more for their cause by raising awareness and encouraging voluntary giving throughout the year. The suggestion of monthly site-wide fundraising was proposed, and the group created a branded identity for their cancer-fighting efforts—the “Farley Fighters” were born.

Over the years, the Farley Fighters have rallied around the common cause of cancer prevention, education and treatment—engaging their fellow employees, patients, and aligned community non-profits in their fundraising efforts. Prompted by their coworkers’ suggestions, they coordinate monthly fund-raising activities like Valentine’s Day bake sales, silent auctions for donated gift baskets, employee breakfasts served by site leadership, barbecues, and multi-themed pot lucks.

It is not expected that everyone will donate for each activity, but, as Farley Fighter Sandra Hart attests, “…we all take part in some way. It may be baking for a sale, grilling at our BBQ, selling chances for a fundraiser, walking in the Walk, or dyeing their hair pink.” She adds that “it feels good to take part [in these activities]. The fundraising goes towards an important cause, but it also is an excuse to get together as a team and have fun together.” The result is that employees don’t ask, “Are we doing this again?” but, instead, ask “What can we do next?”

As Martin’s Point patients took notice of the Farley Fighters t-shirts that staff wear at site activities and on Fridays, they began asking how they could join in to support the effort. Today the team takes pride that, without making any direct requests, patients have offered their own donations— both financial and culinary—to the cause.

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While formal records have not been tracked, the Fighters estimate that, between fund-raisers and walk donations, they have raised nearly $20,000 since 2004. This sustained and impactful commitment to the fight against cancer is proof of the power of inspired and engaged Martin’s Point employees. Congratulations to the Farley Fighters for bringing to life both our motto—we are people caring for people—and our mission to improve the health of our community.

Five Ways to Keep Your Campers Happy and Healthy

Your kids and grandkids are now out of school and ready for the fun of summer camp. But before they dive in, make sure you’ve taken these basic preventive measures to keep their adventures safe.

1. Sun smarts. There’s nothing like a sunburn to put a damper on summer fun – and of course, no one wants to elevate their risk for skin cancer. Stock up now on sunscreen rated 15 to 50 SPF with “broad spectrum” on the label (this means it will block both types of harmful rays). Round up a hat with a brim. Ideally you want one that extends 3” around the entire head, but if you have better odds of getting your camper to wear a cap, that’s better than nothing. Consider sunglasses with UV protection for additional eye protection.

Then, start a daily sunscreen ritual. Every morning before departing for camp, apply sunscreen liberally (most of us fail here) to all exposed skin. Send sunscreen with your camper every day, with instructions to reapply every two hours and after swimming.

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2. Proper fuel. Most camps keep kids on the move, so start the day with a hearty, healthy breakfast – a bagel with peanut butter and banana, low-sugar/high fiber cereal and berries, or poached egg on an English muffin with avocado. Pack healthy snacks like celery and almond butter or cheese sticks and grapes, and lunch that supplies the energy and protein kids need. Include whole-grains, protein (hard boiled eggs, hummus, black beans, lean turkey), fruits and vegetables. More lunch ideas.

What about drinks? Younger kids need at least 7 cups of water a day to stay hydrated; teenagers need 10-14 – more in hot, humid weather and when physically active. Skip or limit sugary options like soda and lemonade.

Cool tip: At night, fill a water bottle halfway and store it in the freezer. The next morning, top off the bottle and send it with your camper.

3. Tick talk. Summer is prime time for ticks, known to carry diseases like Lyme that are harmful to people and pets. Most Maine cases of Lyme are reported from May to July,* and deer ticks are the main culprit (see how to spot them here). To reduce the threat of tick bites for outdoor campers, apply tick repellent with 10% DEET or Picaridin to skin and clothing. After camp, do a thorough tick inspection each day, keeping in mind that ticks can be as tiny as a dot and may be mistaken for moles. Check the entire body, especially the scalp, ears, nape of neck, underarms, back of knees between toes, private areas, and between the toes. If you find a tick, remove it right away. Then thoroughly wash the bite area (and your hands) with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.

“Removing a deer tick carrying Lyme within 24 hours decreases the chance of Lyme disease to under 3%,” says Torah Tomasi, M.D., a Martin’s Point Health Care pediatrician. “Call your doctor if you have questions, especially if there is an area of expanding redness around the bite or if your child develops a fever or flu-like symptoms from one to three weeks after the bite.” Monitor the area for about 30 days – if a round of oval red rash develops around the bite, seek medical advice.

*The Maine CDC reported 1,395 cases in 2014 – and experts suspect only 1 in 10 cases were reported. 

4. Medication check. Camp policy about handling prescription and over-the-counter medications for campers varies. Well before camp starts, check with camp leaders so you have time to plan accordingly. This is particularly important for kids who rely on daily prescription medicines to manage chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes, and for kids with allergies. If you’re sending medication to camp with your child, make sure contains are clearly labelled with your child’s name and dosage instructions, your pediatrician’s name and phone number, and your name and phone number.

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5. Lice control. Lice. It’s the four-letter threat all parents want to avoid. Like school, camp can be an easy place for lice to spread. Your best defense is to make sure kids understand how to prevent lice from spreading:

  • Don’t let your hair touch another person’s hair.
  • Don’t share hats, uniforms, towels, hair ribbons, barrettes, elastics, or brushes.

If you think your camper has been in contact with another child or adult infested with lice:

  • Disinfect brushes or hair items. Soak in hot water (130°F+) for 10 minutes.
  • Machine wash and dry clothing, bed linens, and other items worn or used during the two days prior to treatment. Use the hot water laundry setting and the high heat dryer setting. Anything you can’t put in the machine should be dry-cleaned or sealed in a plastic bag for two weeks.

Learn more about lice symptoms and treatment here.

Call on us!

If you have questions about keeping your camper safe, we’re happy to help. Just call your Martin’s Point Health Care provider and we’ll provide advice or set up an appointment as needed. Together, we can make it a summer to remember – for all the right reasons.

Grow Your Own! It’s Easier Than You Think.

Looking for easy ways to get your daily 2-3 cups of nutrient-packed veggies?  You might find the answer in a bucket.

“Most any vegetable can be grown in a simple container,” says Jessica Beesley of Estabrook’s garden center in Yarmouth, Maine. And it’s surprisingly simple to get growing.

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Four steps to home-grown

1. Find containers with proper capacity. Lots of people use simple plastic buckets with a hole or two drilled in the bottom to allow for drainage. Size is important. Big growers – like tomatoes and zucchini – need five gallon-containers, one plant per bucket. Small-scale plants like lettuce, herbs, and radishes, do fine in one-gallon containers or window boxes.

2. Use the right soil. Dirt from your yard won’t support vegetables properly. Choose a good quality potting soil and plan to fertilize regularly.

3. Provide water and sun. Most vegetables need at least 6 hours of full sun per day; 8 is ideal. Container plants need more water than those planted in the ground. Depending on sun and wind, you may need to water two or three times a day. “The trick is keep the moisture even,” advises Beesley. Don’t oversaturate or let soil completely dry out.

4. Don’t forget to consider drainage. Mark Sundermann, a Master Gardener with Maine Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener Volunteer program, and Website Content Specialist at Martin’s Point, suggests, “To improve drainage in a bucket, line the bottom fifth of the bucket with stones, or gravel, making sure not to block drainage holes.”

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Bucket list

As for picking your plants, at this point in the season and to keep it simple, choose seedlings, not seeds. Look for these container-happy varieties at your local garden center or ask staff for their recommendations:

  • Tomatoes: Husky Red, Patio, Sprite

Sundermann adds,  “When you grow tomatoes in a bucket avoid “indeterminate” varieties that will grow to 6-12 feet high and require staking or caging, try to use “determinate” varieties that are bush like and compact.”

  • Lettuces: Salad Bowl, Tom Thumb
  • Zucchini: Eight ball, Raven

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Fun Tip:

Have fun with combining plants in one container. A container with one tomato plant, a basil plant or two, and a nasturtium or two to flow over the edge will give you all the ingredients for a plate of sliced tomatoes, except the mozzarella.

And be sure to consider what is perhaps Beesley’s best advice:

“Choose vegetables you like to eat, and you’re much more likely to put your crop to good use.”

Diabetes: Advice on Prevention

In part two of our three-part series, learn how to prevent diabetes and reverse prediabetes.

In part one of our series on diabetes, you learned all about type 2 diabetes and how to determine if you’re at risk for this chronic disease. Now it’s time to get down to business and uncover the steps to safeguard your health.

Our advice for preventing diabetes and getting a grip on prediabetes may sound familiar. After all, it echoes most everything you’ve heard about staying healthy:

  • Cut back on sugar and high-calorie foods like burgers, fries and doughnuts. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Do something active every day – walk, hike, play a sport, practice yoga, ice skate – anything you find fun and easy to fit in.
  • Lose excess weight by eating better and adding exercise.
  • See your doctor and get your blood sugar tested if you are between age 40 and 70 and overweight.

Even relatively small changes – like losing 10 pounds if you weigh 200 or adding 25 minutes of exercise, six days a week – have big impact and will improve your health in other ways, too.

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All the proof – and support – you need to take charge

There’s more encouraging news for people with prediabetes: Joining a prevention program that follows protocol established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can cut your risk in half. People over age 70 stand to cut their risk of developing diabetes even more – by 71%.

One such program is the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program, offered at more than 200 YMCA locations across the country – including southern Maine. This 10-month program uses coaching, lessons on healthy eating and exercising, managing stress and problem solving, plus group support and weekly meetings.

“The goals are for participants to lose 5 to 7% of their body weight and gradually increase physical activity to 150 minutes per week,” notes Nicole Hart, Strategic Initiatives Director at YMCA of Southern Maine.

Still not convinced? Even 10 years out, follow-up research shows people who finish CDC-approved programs like these are 33% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Find a program at a YMCA near you.

When to get help

Sometimes blood sugar levels creep up so slowly that it’s hard to recognize a problem. These common symptoms can indicate high blood sugar:

  • Extreme thirst and/or hunger.
  • Urinating more frequently than usual.
  • Blurred vision.

If you experience these symptoms – or if you think you’re at risk for diabetes or prediabetes, talk with your health care provider. “Taking action to reverse prediabetes keeps you in control, whereas if things progress to diabetes, there’s no cure,” says Janet Pachta, M.D., adult medicine provider at Martin’s Point Health Care. “And diagnosing diabetes as soon as possible helps you start management that protects your heart, kidneys and eyes.”

Coming soon – part three in our series, which will focus on managing type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes: Know if You’re at Risk

In this first of our three-part series, we’ll help you determine whether you’re at risk for type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes calls for constant vigilance: Monitoring blood sugar levels, thinking about when and what you’ll eat, and considering how taking your dog for a romp or your kids to the lake could throw everything off. This chronic illness can also add stress, medical expenses and extra risk to an already full plate.

In Maine, this is reality for as many as 133,100 people. It doesn’t have to be for you. There’s plenty you can do to know if you’re at risk for diabetes – and how to lower it.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic illness that throws off the body’s ability to process food into the sugar it needs for fuel. Because the body either can’t make enough of the hormone insulin or can’t use insulin properly, you end up with way too much blood sugar. Over time, high blood sugar can wreak havoc on your eyes, heart, bloods vessels, nerves and kidneys. This elevates your risk for heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease and even loss of toes, feet or lower legs.

“Diabetes can be managed, but not cured, which makes it so important to make healthy lifestyle choices in the first place,” says Janet Pachta, M.D., a Martin’s Point Adult Medicine physician.

There are three types of diabetes. Here, we’ll focus on type 2 – far and away the biggest trouble maker in America.

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How common is type 2 diabetes?

One in every four adults – a staggering 30.3 million Americans – aren’t aware that they have diabetes. Today, three times as many adults are diagnosed than were 20 years ago. And though it was once an adult-only problem, type 2 diabetes has trickled down to kids, teens and young adults, too.

Equally worrisome is the prevalence of prediabetes. With prediabetes, blood sugar levels aren’t quite high enough to earn a diabetic label, but there’s still trouble afoot. People with prediabetes have a higher risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke – but prediabetes can be reversed.

Who’s At Risk for prediabetes or type 2 diabetes? You could have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes and not know it—there often aren’t any symptoms. That’s why it makes sense to know the risk factors: 45+ years old, Physically active less than 3 times/week, Family history of type 2 diabetes, High blood pressure, History of gestational diabetes (Diabetes during pregnancy. Giving birth to a baby weighing 9+ pounds is also a risk factor), Overweight. Did you know...African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans are at higher risk. If you have any of the risk factors, ask your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested. CDC-Centers for Disease Control.

Are you at risk?
Having just one of the following factors sends up a red flag that you’re more likely to develop diabetes or prediabetes:

  • You are age 45 or older
  • You are overweight or obese
  • You exercise less than three times a week
  • You have a family history of diabetes
  • You developed diabetes during pregnancy or gave birth to a baby weighing 9 or more pounds
  • You have high blood pressure
  • Your background is African American, American Indian or Alaskan native, Asian American, Hispanic or Latino, or Native Hawaiian or Pacific islander.

You can get a more precise idea of your risk level by taking this quick quiz online or downloading it here. If your score is 9 points or more, make a date with your health care provider right away. If your score is 3 to 8 points, keep up the good work (details below).

“Diagnosing – and then managing – diabetes is key to preventing long-term effects on the heart, kidneys and  eyes,” notes Dr. Pachta. “Recognizing prediabetes and taking action to prevent progression also prevents unnecessary damage.” So, if you think you might be at risk or have diabetes or prediabetes, call your doctor today.

Check back in a couple of weeks for part two of this series, and learn about the many ways you can cut your risk for diabetes and live a healthier life.

Martin’s Point employees featured on Live + Work in Maine and MaineLife

As part of an ongoing video series, Live + Work in Maine is featuring employees from across the Pine Tree State sharing why they love living and working here in Maine. Our own Jeff Polk, Vice President of Network Management, and Michelle Gallitto, Strategy Deployment Director, were recently selected to tell their stories and both did an incredible job on camera. We couldn’t be prouder.

 

The videos were shown during recent episodes of MaineLife and are also featured on the Live + Work in Maine website.

Martin’s Point Job Shadow Day a Win-Win for All!

A big “Thank you!” is going out to all who helped make our recent Martin’s Point Job Shadow Day a huge success! On April 6, our employees hosted 27 undergraduates from the University of Southern Maine (USM) and Southern Maine Community College (SMCC), showing students the ropes of real-world health care work at Martin’s Point.

Student shadowed in their areas of interest, including clinical and administrative roles at our Portland Health Care Center, finance, HR, IT, marketing, and corporate and health plan administration. With participant reviews like “Phenomenal,” “Helpful,” “Very informative,” and “Overwhelming,” event coordinators at Martin’s Point, USM, and SMCC couldn’t be happier with the results.

Pointing to our strong partnerships with these local educational institutions, Martin’s Point Chief HR Officer, Teresa Nizza, noted that the collaboration is a win-win for all involved:

“I am proud of the meaningful experiences we can provide to local students, a number of whom are first-generation college students and new Americans,” said Nizza. “They gain practical exposure to their fields of interest and we are able to showcase our work, share our culture, and meet potential candidates for future internships and even permanent employment.”

See more event images and participant comments below:

“A very good way to learn about different job pathways and what is out there to experience. So many opportunities!” ~USM Student

 “A great opportunity to gain the real-world experience of what I’m learning in school, particularly about computer programming.”  ~USM Student

“It really opened my eyes to new jobs that Martin’s Point has to offer. I wouldn’t have known about the administrative office part of Martin’s Point if I didn’t choose to learn about it. Overall, great and will consider an internship.” ~ USM Student

“It was great to spend the morning with students from USM. I appreciated the opportunity to reflect on my career path, share bits of insight, and highlight some of the things that make Martin’s Point such a unique place to be employed. I am already looking forward to the next job shadow day!”  ~Martin’s Point Employee

 

 

Five Ways to Get Your Family Moving This Spring

Warmer temperatures and extra daylight make spring the perfect time to kick your commitment to being more active into gear. Exercise helps prevent disease, maintains a healthy weight, lifts your mood and energy levels and more. With so many benefits, the question might be not if you’re going to get moving today – but what should you do?

Here are five ways to help you launch a healthier, happier you:

1. Toss in something new: disc golf. Make exercise more like adventure-play – especially if it’s muddy or there’s snow underfoot – with a disc golf outing. To play, follow the course, trying to throw your disc ($10 and up) into one metal basket after another in the set number of throws. You may come upon devotees, but the game is decidedly low key. Keep score, or not. Courses have popped up all over. Find one near you at pdga.com or dgcoursereview.com

2. Make Saturday trail day. Get quality family time and exercise, all in one. To get your kids onboard, collect a list of trails near you (visit Mainetrailfinder.com) and put names on slips of paper in a jar or a hat. Each week, take turns picking a destination. Don’t forget sturdy footwear, bug repellent and hats.

 

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3. Slow it down with yoga. You don’t have to go all cardio – in fact, it’s best to add strength training along with flexibility and balance work. You get all three with yoga – plus stress relief. Get started with a class near you, or on YouTube (Yoga with Adriene and Yoga Journal are great for beginners). Get the little ones involved with The Kids’ Yoga Deck by Annie Buckley – pick a card and learn a fun pose like gorilla or airplane.

4. Go out and play. Try something new – or revisit what you loved as a kid: play Whiffle ball, ultimate Frisbee, or tennis, shoot hoops, mark a box with chalk and play four square, ride bikes, make an obstacle course, go on a neighborhood scavenger hunt. Anything that gets you moving is fair game.

5. Start an evening walk habit. Delayed sunsets are the perfect invitation to get outside after dinner and walk. Shoot for 10 minutes on most days and bam, you’ve added an hour of exercise to every week. And it’s likely you’ll choose to go longer once you lace up your sneakers and set off.

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Before you lace up your sneakers, consider how much exercise you need. It all depends on what your goals are.

“For good health, you need a total of at least 150 minutes of exercise every week,” says Michael Bergeron M.D., M.B.A., a physician with Martin’s Point Health Care. “That’s 30 minutes, five times a week. Most of us can make that work.”

With five fresh ideas and a reasonable time-goal, it’s easy to launch your fitness plan. You could even find that for you, variety is the key to sticking with it. Worse case? Hopefully you find at least one new thing you love to do, week after week, and before you know it, it’s spring again!

This article originally appeared in the Coastal Journal

Happy Trails…Thanks to Martin’s Point Volunteers

Molly Mendola, Patient Services Representative, knows the importance of maintaining, cleaning and building up local trails. So when she had the opportunity to volunteer at the Walton Park Trail in Falmouth, she took it.

“I love that I work for an organization that promotes volunteering while taking care of the community,” said Molly. “It was an awesome experience. The whole project was very rewarding and provided us all with instant gratification. It was a great way to meet other Martin’s Point employees!

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Martin’s Point is proud to partner with Portland Trails and their Adopt-A-Trail Program

More than 20 employees volunteered for Portland Trails, spending their time raking, laying crushed rock, spreading mulch, setting up trail barriers and removing trash. Not only did our volunteers get in some healthy activity, but they left the trail in shape for others to enjoy.

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Martin’s Point volunteers at work

Why Does Martin’s Point support trails?

Trails are an important resource in Greater Portland. They connect individuals with nature, but also to businesses, neighborhoods, schools, and destinations. In conjunction with streets, sidewalks, and public spaces, trails are part of a healthy, walkable community. A trail network supports active lifestyles, enhances the livability of the community, and strengthens the regional economy by serving as an amenity for residents and property owners.

To learn more about Portland Trails visit their website.

Martin’s Point Shows a Lot of Heart at the United Way Kickoff and Sculpture Contest

A warm day greeted more than a dozen co-workers who joined together on Sept. 15 to help kickoff the United Way of Greater Portland’s United We CAN campaign with a food drive and can sculpture contest in Monument Square.

Employees donated over 1,000 items, weighing 865.2 pounds, during our food drive.

“We put a lot of heart into our can sculpture,” said Russ Philips, “This was a great event with a LOT of food going to a great cause.”

This year’s effort brought in enough food for more than 16,000 meals, United Way said. The cans will be donated to the Wayside Food Programs and distributed to food pantries around Cumberland County.