Nebraska Extension to focus on health and well-being in communities

by Chabella Guzman, Communications Spec I University of Nebraska–Lincoln Panhandle Rsch & Ext Center

Group of people sitting and standing
The Extension Leadership Team at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Panhandle Research Extension and Education Center in Scottsbluff.

The Extension Leadership Team retreat was held at the UNL Panhandle Research Extension and Education Center in Scottsbluff on June 12-13. Nebraska Extension has 11 engagement zones, with number one being the Panhandle, led by Rob Eirich, an engagement zone coordinator. The leadership event is held quarterly in different parts of Nebraska to highlight the areas where everyone works. Along with learning the issues each part of the state faces and how extension can meet the needs of Nebraskans. 

“We’re looking strategically at how to position our personnel to meet the needs of Nebraskans. What type of programs do we put together, how do we conduct the programs, and then how do we evaluate where we were effective enough, and then we do it all over again,” said Charlie Stoltenow, dean and director of extension at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Health and well-being will be a focus of the extension team. Stoltenow said the extension is not set up to be a treatment or health facility, but it can help people with preventative education. 

“If we can prevent and really help people, then we’re way ahead. We don’t want bad things to happen (to people). So how can we help our people recognize these (harmful) things going on in their lives,” he said. 

The extension team will begin with Social determinants of health, which according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, are the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affects a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.

“One of the things we’re learning in other work we are doing is to increase the health and wellness of the community is to increase their standard of living,” Stoltenow said.

He said that the standard of living is a big determinant regardless of other factors, including ethnicity and location. The extension leadership team will be looking at ways to answer the question of how to increase the resident's health and well-being and bring value back to them and the state.   

 Along with the retreat, Stoltenow tagged the week his “Final Four,” completing a promise of visiting all 83 extension county offices across Nebraska.

“It’s been a joy. They (extensions) are vital to our sustainability and future growth.” 


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