December 18, 2007

Center for Rural Health adds two staff members

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development at Southern Illinois University Carbondale recently welcomed two new staff members. Edith C.M. Ng'oma is the new coordinator for the Live Free-Tobacco Free Initiative, while Heather M. Hartung is coordinator for the Illinois Delta Network Project.

Ng'oma joins Tess D. Ford, director of the Center for Rural Health and Social Service (CRHSSD), and Elaine Vitello, who serves with Ford as co-director of the Live Free-Tobacco Free Initiative. The three implement the program that focuses on replicating the successful model developed by SIUC at other Illinois institutions of higher learning.

Ng' oma, a native of Zambia, earned her master's degree in rehabilitation counseling at SIUC. Her educational background also includes a bachelor's degree in education with psychology from the University of Zambia, a teacher's diploma from the Technical and Vocational Teachers' College in Zambia and restorative justice training at the Stepping Stones One Stop Youth Justice Center in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

For more than five years, Ng'oma, now of Carbondale, was lead facilitator and coach for Street Kids International of Canada, planning and leading training workshops pertaining to street health and business skills for government personnel, program managers, youth workers and youth in Bolivia, Nepal, South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia and Zambia. She also previously served as a regional supervisor with CARE International Zambia's SCOPE-OVC project. There she appraised project proposals, prepared reports and helped build the poverty and HIV/AIDS fight capacities for communities, government agencies and non-profit organizations.

Ng'oma said she intends, "to the best of my ability to contribute positively to the replication of the SIUC's Live Free-Tobacco Free model at other higher institutions of learning as well as in all the other areas targeted by CRHSSD."

"Additionally, I hope to remain fully alert to the unexplored needs of the various communities in the project and to make practical suggestions of how to best meet such needs," she said. Ng'oma's husband Alex is a political science doctoral candidate at SIUC and the couple has three children.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Illinois Department of Public Health provide funding for the SIUC Live Free-Tobacco Free Initiative. It is a policy-focused, evidence-based initiative featuring strong community involvement. The idea is to encourage learning institutions to set campus and community tobacco programming goals based on thorough policy analysis of the institution and community, Ng'oma said.

"Programmatic components of the Live-Free-Tobacco Free model are being replicated at universities and community colleges throughout Illinois," Ng'oma added.

Hartung isn't a newcomer to the Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development. Originally employed in January as education coordinator, she recently became coordinator for the Illinois Delta Network "CATCH on to Health" Project. Hartung holds a master's degree in public health from SIUC and a bachelor's in school and community health education from Winona State University in Minnesota.

She has worked in the rural health field at the local, state and national levels for five years. Her experience includes working at the National Rural Health Resource Center Technical Assistance and Services Center, an agency providing technical assistance for the Rural Hospital Medicare Flexibility Program in the form of information, tools and resources. Funded by the Health Resources and Service Administration's Office of Rural Health Policy and administered by the National Rural Health Resource Center, it's a private, non-profit organization.

"I am particularly interested in improving the quality of life in rural, underserved populations," Hartung said. "This position is an opportunity to dramatically improve the health and well-being of children and families in the Southern Illinois region. I'm looking forward to facilitating the implementation of this federally funded project."

"CRHSSD is very pleased to have Heather Hartung begin the coordinating role for the Illinois Delta CATCH on to Health project," Ford said.

The network's CATCH on to Health Project is federally funded for three years and covers the southernmost 16 counties of Illinois. Increasing physical activity, intensifying physical activity and improving nutrition and health education programs in several elementary schools in the region is what the implementation of the Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) program is all about. The project is a collaboration involving Southern Illinois Healthcare, Southern Seven Health Department and the Egyptian Health Department.

The Illinois Delta Network CATCH on to Health Program also provides support for nutrition and fitness materials to area Head Start Programs through John A. Logan College's Child Care Resource and Referral Center. With award of a competitive innovative expansion grant, the center works with Shawnee Health Service developing and evaluating educational and telehealth services for children with disabilities, Hartung notes.