Thursday, April 7, 2016

SNRE profiles: Agent provides health/nutrition programs

Leslie Shallcross says she became interested in health and nutrition as a teenager in southeast Pennsylvania.

“I loved cooking and I was interested in nutrition,” she said. She worked in a hospital during high school and says she saw a lot of people whose poor health might have been avoided with better diets and lifestyles. “I became very interested in helping to prevent disease rather than treat disease and thought that nutrition might be the ticket.”

Leslie Shallcross
Shallcross earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition at Pennsylvania State University, worked as a nutritionist for about 10 years and then returned to the school to earn a master’s degree in human nutrition and become a registered dietitian. During graduate school, she and a friend ran a catering business, providing food for many of Penn State’s official events.

Shallcross’ career has revolved around the topics of nutrition and health. She worked as a nutritionist for tribes in Connecticut, New York and Maine, the New Mexico Department of Health on a community health promotion team, and Women, Infants and Children programs in Pennsylvania and in Palmer. Before joining Extension in Anchorage in 2006, she supervised health and nutrition programs for the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association for six years.

Her work as an Extension agent with the Anchorage District office encompasses most of that previous work and training. In addition to showing people how to safely preserve foods, she teaches individuals with diabetes and their family members about menu planning. She also offers Diabetes Self-Management Program workshops, which give individuals skills for managing their chronic health condition. She is currently leading the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention year-long National Diabetes Prevention Program for prediabetic individuals. The program encourages participants to lose 7 to 10 percent of their body weight, decrease dietary fat and increase exercise. These changes have been shown to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes for as long as 12 to 13 years.

Shallcross harvests rosehips.
One of the assignments Shallcross most enjoys is her work with the Living Well Alaska: The Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, a research-based program developed by Stanford University and Kaiser Permanente. Shortly after coming to Extension, the state Department of Health and Social Services asked her to train community members as program leaders. This program helps individuals and their family members or caregivers gain skills to manage chronic health conditions. She has received grant funding for nine years to provide the chronic disease and diabetes self-management leader courses.

Leslie Shallcross harvests rosehips.She has offered the six-session chronic disease self-management community workshops in Anchorage, but she is proud of training more than 400 community leaders, who have gone on to provide workshops in senior centers and tribal health programs, churches, health centers and other community locations in 17 Alaska communities, including Ketchikan, Prince of Wales Island, Homer, Soldotna, Anchorage, Seward, Mat-Su, Kodiak and Kotzebue.

“It’s Extension as it’s supposed to work,” she said, “training community members who can extend effective programs to the community.”

The agent points to the cost savings associated with the two self-management programs. According to many analyses of the programs over the past 20 years, for every dollar spent, between $1 and $4 is saved in health care costs.

Shallcross also leads StrongWomen Strong Bones fitness and nutrition training for seniors at the Anchorage District office and supervises seven other StrongWomen groups in Anchorage.

Her outside interests include spending time with her son, a West Point graduate and Afghanistan veteran, cooking, singing and dancing (with no audiences, bird watching, rafting in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and kayaking in Prince William Sound. She says that the last activity has often led to a lot of time sitting in tents listening to it rain, but also the chance to see the most spectacular Alaska scenery and wildlife.

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