Freeman Medical Musings Blog

Keep Up With Your Health

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As the leaders of healthcare in Joplin and surrounding areas, you rely on us to keep your informed and healthy. Locally Owned, Nationally Recognized means we're here for you every step of the way. 

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Sep 06, 2022

How to Support Someone with Aphasia

There is a language disorder that affects millions of Americans, but most people have never heard of it.

The disorder is called aphasia, and according to, nearly 180,000 Americans acquire the disorder each year. 

Aphasia is a language disorder that occurs when the parts of the brain that process language are impaired. Aphasia most often is caused by stroke but can also occur after head injuries or a brain tumor. Aphasia doesn’t affect a person’s intelligence – it means they communicate differently now.

Aphasia not only impacts the individual but also their family members or caregivers. It might seem intimidating to communicate with a loved one who has this condition, but it just means you’ll have to communicate with them in a new way. Below are helpful tips for caregivers to consider when communicating:

  1. Take Your Time
    The most important thing to remember is to be patient. This condition can be frustrating for the individual, so take your time when communicating. Don’t try to rush through the conversation, finish their sentences or speak over the individual.
  2. Keep Sentences Short
    Keep your sentences short and to the point. Longer sentences can be harder to respond to. Instead of asking “Would you like me to grab you something to drink from the kitchen?” Ask “Would you like a drink?”
  3. Focus
    Make sure the individual has your undivided attention when communicating. Turn off music, televisions or other distracting objects. This makes it easier to focus on the conversation.
  4. Repeat
    Make sure to verify what the individual said to you. Repeat back what you heard them say. For example, ask “You would like to go on a walk?” and then wait for confirmation.
  5. Think Outside the Box
    Lastly, think outside the box when you are communicating. For some people, gesturing at objects or showing pictures is very helpful. 

Keeping these tips in mind can make communication easier for both the individual with aphasia and the caregiver. For more information and helpful resources, visit

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Aug 26, 2022

Should You Take Supplemental Vitamins?

Did you know the food you eat contains vital nutrients for your body to work properly?

Vitamins and nutrients found in food are responsible for carrying out hundreds of bodily functions, from creating red blood cells to sending nerve impulses and from creating the energy you need to carry out your daily activities to supporting healthy bone and hair growth. So, if vitamins are found in food, is it necessary for people to take a supplemental vitamin?

For most people, taking supplemental vitamins is unnecessary, as we obtain the essentials through a balanced diet. If your diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein and healthy fats, you should be receiving the right amount of nutrients your body needs. The main purpose of a supplemental vitamin is to fill in the nutritional gaps when it is not met through your diet. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate food supplements to assure safety and efficacy, so there can be a lot of variety in quality. Adopting a balanced diet is the best way to ensure your body has all the nutrients it needs.

There are instances in which taking supplemental vitamins are encouraged. Most of the time, this is when there is evidence that you are deficient in a particular vitamin, such as D or B12. Vitamins and minerals have many different jobs within our body, so a deficiency in any of them could cause an array of symptoms. 

There are also conditions that can put you at higher risk to have vitamin deficiencies, such as bariatric surgery, certain bowel conditions, restrictive diets and more. People who are attempting to get pregnant or who are pregnant also have higher vitamin and mineral needs, which is why prenatal vitamins are recommended. 

Remember to always inform your healthcare provider of any supplements you are taking, as some can potentially interfere with lab testing and prescribed medications. If you are unsure if you should take a vitamin supplement, consult with your healthcare provider.

If you don’t have a healthcare provider, the Freeman Physician Finder Specialist can assist you in locating Freeman physicians and services, provide information about physicians who are currently accepting patients and refer you to specialists’ offices. Call 417.347.3767 or 800.297.3337.

About the Author
Brittany Winkfield, DO, is an internal medicine physician at Freeman Southwest Internal Medicine. She earned her medical degree from A.T. Still University, School of Osteopathic Medicine, and completed her residency at Freeman Health System in Joplin, Missouri.

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Teen boy with backpack

Aug 08, 2022

A Shot to Keep Kids Healthy

Parents want what’s best for their children – a good education, good health and a bright future.

Timely vaccination throughout childhood is essential to this endeavor. It helps provide immunity before children are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases, protecting them from harsh medications and medical interventions like antibiotics, hospital stays and surgeries.

Vaccines are tested to ensure that they are safe and effective for children to receive at the recommended ages. In fact, the vaccine schedule set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and followed by your Freeman pediatrician is based on when your child's immune system provides optimal protection after vaccination. Vaccines are also timed to give your child protection at the ages when they are at the highest risks of different diseases.

Each year, top disease experts evaluate vaccination schedules and guidelines against the most recent research. The AAP, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and American Academy of Family Physicians then review and approve any recommended changes. Your Freeman pediatrician stays updated with any changes, too. The current vaccines that school-aged children should have include:

Preschool and Elementary School Years: Ages 4 – 10 
•    Flu vaccine: Every year by the end of October, if possible 
•    Chickenpox (varicella) vaccine: At 4 – 6 years 
•    Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP) vaccine: At 4 – 6 years 
•    Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine: At 4 – 6 years 
•    Polio (IPV) vaccine: At 4 – 6 years 

Preteen and Teen Years: Ages 11 – 18 
As your child heads to college, make sure all vaccinations are up to date and that your child has a copy of all immunization records. If your child travels outside of the United States, check if they need any additional vaccines. 
•    Flu vaccine: Every year by the end of October, if possible 
•    Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine: At 11 – 12 years and a second dose 6-12 months following the first dose 
•    Meningococcal conjugate vaccine: At 11 – 12 years and at 16 years 
•    Serogroup B meningococcal vaccine: May be given at 16 – 23 years; if interested, talk to your child’s doctor 
•    Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine: At 11 – 12 years

For more information about vaccines and immunizations, visit for American Association of Pediatrics recommendations. Visit for more information about pediatric services at Freeman Health System. 

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Pregnancy cravings

Jul 28, 2022

The Truth About Seven Pregnancy Myths

Nothing attracts unsolicited advice quite like pregnancy.

While most people are well-intentioned in sharing information, but some of it may be less than accurate. 

From the silly to the misguided and to the just plain outdated, here’s the truth about seven pregnancy myths.

Myth #1: You can’t drink coffee while you’re pregnant.
Good news! You can drink coffee and other forms of caffeine while pregnant. The key is moderation. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends no more than 200 mg of caffeine a day, so you can safely drink 1 – 2 cups of coffee or 2 – 4 cups of caffeinated tea. 

Myth #2: Morning sickness is just in the morning. 
Unfortunately, morning sickness can strike at any time of the day or night. The good news is that morning sickness normally subsides after the first trimester. In the meantime, try eating small frequent snacks of crackers, toast or dry cereal to calm your stomach.

Myth #3: You can’t pet cats.
Never fear – you can continue to pet and snuggle your furry friends. This myth has its roots in concerns about toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that can be spread by cat feces. All you have to do to protect yourself, though, is have someone else change the litter box and wear gloves when you’re gardening, in case the soil has had contact with cat feces.

Myth #4: You can tell the baby’s sex by the way your belly looks. 
While it can be amusing to try to predict baby’s sex by your belly position, your cravings or even baby’s heartrate, the only accurate predictor of your baby’s sex is an ultrasound. 

Myth #5: Once you have a c-section, you always have to have them. 
Vaginal birth after a cesarean (VBAC) is an option for many women. Whether you are a candidate depends on many factors, such as where C-section scar is and the reason for your first C-section. If you are interested in a VBAC delivery, ask your OB if it could be an option for you.

Myth #6: You shouldn’t exercise while pregnant.
Unless you’ve been told otherwise by your care provider, exercise is often really beneficial during pregnancy. People once worried that certain positions – like raising your arms over your head – would allow the baby’s umbilical cord to wrap around its neck, but your baby moves independently of you. So no matter your position, your baby is okay. 

Myth #7: You should eat for two. 
As much fun as eating for two sounds, your baby doesn’t need that many extra calories. The ACOG says you need to eat an additional 340 calories per day starting in the second trimester (and a bit more in the third trimester).

Remember, your prenatal care provider is the best source of information. Your provider will work with you to make your pregnancy as safe and comfortable as possible. 

Learn More About Maternity Services at Freeman  

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Jul 11, 2022

How to Safely Exercise in the Summer Heat

Summer months come with a refreshed attitude to head outdoors to enjoy the weather.

But if it’s been a while since you’ve picked up a jump rope or dusted off your running shoes, there are a few things to keep in mind before taking on the heat. For one thing, it’s a challenge to do any physical activity during the hot summer months, and even more so if you haven’t been physically active in several years.

The first thing to consider when doing outdoor physical activity is the time of day. We know that the cooler temperatures are earlier in the morning and later in the evening, so it may be best to start your activity during these times. Pay attention to the weather and heed all heat advisories.

The next thing that is so important is to stay hydrated! Keep a large bottle of cold water nearby and sip it slowly and frequently. This will help keep you hydrated while keeping you cool. A good rule of thumb is to pay attention to your urine color both before and after activity. Ideally, your urine should resemble a glass of diluted lemonade. If it looks like dark apple juice, it is time to increase your fluids.

To avoid injuries during activities, start out slow. The prime of summer is not the best time to train for your first triathlon or even play in your first-ever, day-long pickleball tournament. However, if you start small with something like a walking program it not only helps you acclimate to the weather, but it also helps to build your endurance and tolerance. If it starts to feel easier, then go ahead and add in some jogging intervals. Short intervals of low to higher intensity of any activity is the best way to gauge if your body is ready to be pushed harder.

Lastly, listen to your body. If you start to experience dizziness, light-headedness or an unusual amount of profuse sweating, then your body is telling you you’re taking on too much and your body’s cooling system is overheating. Get your body cooled down as soon as possible by heading indoors into the air conditioning, using a fan to get some air circulating around your body, dunking yourself in the pool or hosing yourself down. It is important to get your body’s thermostat back to a comfortable range.

Safely attacking the summer heat makes July and August more enjoyable and tolerable. So, grab your sunscreen, your water bottles, your ice towels and head outside!

About the Author
Mylene Ray, MHS, ATC, is the Sports Medicine Outreach Coordinator and an athletic trainer at Freeman Rehabilitation & Sports Center. Click here to learn more about Freeman Rehabilitation & Sports Center.

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Summer Safety Freeman Blog

Jun 27, 2022

Beat the Heat and Health Risks With Summer Safety

Learn ways to stay healthy this summer

By Natasha Kataria, MD

As summer begins, most people are ready to step outside and enjoy some outdoor fun! And we need to keep in mind, some summer activities bring additional risks to your health. With soaring temps and harsh sunlight, even leisurely activities come with hidden dangers. Stay safe this summer with some simple summer health precautions. 

Stay Hydrated
Dehydration can happen quickly in the summer heat. Stay hydrated throughout the day by steadily drinking water and not waiting until you're thirsty. Avoid sugary, caffeinated and alcoholic drinks, which cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks because they can cause stomach cramps. Try fresh foods with high water content, such as watermelon, strawberries, tomatoes, cucumber, celery and lettuce.
Symptoms of dehydration can differ depending on your age. A young child or infant who’s dehydrated won’t shed tears while crying and may have sunken eyes or a dry mouth. Dehydrated adults may feel fatigued and thirsty. Dizziness and confusion are also possible symptoms. Dark-colored urine is a common sign you’re not drinking enough water. Be sure to take frequent water breaks during summer activities.

Avoid Extreme Heat
Heat exhaustion comes with many unpleasant symptoms, including increased pulse, dizziness, fatigue, muscle cramps, nausea and headache and can lead to heatstroke. 

When overheating does occur, it's important to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies four stages of heat-related illness: heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke is a serious life-threatening medical condition when the body’s temperature rises. Much like a fever, extremely high body temperatures can lead to permanent damage. Signs of heat stroke include confusion, rapid breathing, no sweating and a fast pulse. Without care, heatstroke can cause damage to vital organs and muscles and can even be fatal. If you notice the symptoms of heat exhaustion, seek cool shelter and refrain from physical activities so you can rest and hydrate.

You should also take the following precautions on sweltering days to reduce your risk of heat-related illnesses:

  • Know your risk level. Children, older adults and people with chronic diseases are at highest risk. However, even young and healthy people can be affected if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather.
  • Reserve outdoor physical activities for mornings or evenings, when the weather is coolest. Avoid high-intensity activities during midday.
  • Wear flowy, lightweight clothes instead of tight and heavy outfits that hold in heat.

Prevent Food Poisoning 
The CDC estimates 48 million people suffer from food poisoning each year in the U.S. Summertime is picnic time, and picnics bring food outdoors where it can stay warm too long. Certain foods, including meat and dairy products, if left unrefrigerated for too long, will be unsafe to eat due to bacterial growth.

Use the following tips to steer clear of food poisoning:

  • Get rid of perishable food left at room temperature for more than a couple of hours.
  • Pack perishable food in a cooler along with ice.
  • Use a meat thermometer to ensure any grilled meat is at a safe temperature.

If you do develop a case of food poisoning, you’ll likely have nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Drink clear fluids to avoid dehydration. Slowly begin eating bland food, such as toast, as you start to feel better. 

Summer is a great time to be outside and enjoy the season with your loved ones. A little bit of careful prevention and awareness can keep your summer safe!

About the Author
Natasha Kataria, MD, specializes in Internal Medicine. She earned her medical degree from the Government Medical College, Amritsar, Punjab, India and completed her residency at Freeman Health System in Joplin, Missouri.

Freeman Primary Care at Webb City Neighborhood Care offers care for patients age 18 and older. We specialize in high-quality care personal health care giving patients a place to bring their health concerns, prevent disease and find health problems early. Call our office at 417.347.4967 for an appointment.

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Freeman Water Safety Blog

May 27, 2022

Water Safety Is a Family Essential

There are many adages about staying safe, such as “safety isn’t expensive – it’s priceless” or “safety doesn’t happen by accident.”

As we near the end of the school year and the start of summer, these sayings remind families to keep water safety in mind. As warmer temperatures begin, families will be in search of fun water activities, like heading to the pools, beaches, lakes, rivers and ponds to cool off and enjoy the outdoors. Swimming and playing in the water are not without risks, but there are steps families can take to ensure everyone stays safe. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately 10 drowning deaths in the United States every day, and the World Health Organization (WHO) states drowning is the third most common cause of accidental injury death. On the up-side, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicate in a research article that formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88% in children ages 1 – 4. In addition, 91% of drowning victims who receive CPR survive, as reported by the Swiftwater Rescue instructor group.

While water can be treacherous, there are many ways to keep safe and still enjoy the water. The key is to have ongoing communication with your family about safety, not just a one-and-done conversation. Before heading out to engage in water activities with the family, make sure everyone knows how to stay safe and exactly what to do in case of an emergency. Once the entire family is empowered with safety knowledge and preparedness skills, the whole family can enjoy worry-free water fun.

The first step family members can take to prevent drowning is to enroll in swimming lessons. This is a great way to help keep everyone safe in the water and teach them to be strong swimmers. It’s best to start at a young age, so families can be proactive about water safety and enroll family members of all ages in swimming lessons. It’s also worthwhile to have a family member get the official CPR certification. 

When near residential pools, it’s important to have them enclosed with a four-sided fence, with a self-latching, self-closing gate and keep
objects away from the fence that children could use to climb over it, such as furniture or pool toys. Other devices like alarms and pool safety covers may be helpful too. Homes with pools should also have alarms on doors or windows with direct access to the pool. Children can
drown in very small amounts of water, so empty and drain bathtubs, kiddie pools or other items that contain water when not in use. 

Teach children that swimming in open water like lakes or the ocean is different from swimming in a pool. They need to be aware of things like uneven surfaces, currents, undertow and how weather changes can affect the water. 

Here are more tips to help families with water safety:

  • Before every water-related excursion, take five minutes to huddle with your family, making sure everyone’s on the same page about how to avoid accidents and what to do in an emergency. 
  • Discuss with children the importance of never swimming without an adult present and how they should immediately come to you if anyone gets hurt. It’s never too early to start talking about things everyone can do to ensure your family has a great time while staying safe. 
  • Children should always wear a life jacket that fits snugly and is approved by the U.S. Coast Guard on boats, around open bodies of water or when participating in water sports or recreation
  • Constant supervision is the foundation of water safety. There’s no substitute for the attention of a parent, trusted adult, family member or friend. And always check to see if there’s a lifeguard on duty provide an extra set of eyes. 
  • When traveling with children, it’s best to bring a spouse, partner or friend for additional help as an unofficial lifeguard or “water watcher.” Before every swim session, discuss who will be the designated person responsible and how that person should avoid any of the following distractions:

                   ° Drinking alcohol
                   ° Scrolling on social media
                   ° Listening to music with headphones
                   ° Reading

While the water watcher is solely responsible for supervision, every adult should keep their eyes on the children to ensure safety. It’s vital to keep water safety in mind so everyone in the family can enjoy fun in the sun and have the best summer ever!

About the Author
Tiffany Huffman, FNP-C, specializes in family medicine and has been working in the medical field for nearly 20 years. She earned her nursing degree from Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kansas. Freeman Carl Junction Family Medicine specializes in high-quality family care. Call our office at 417.347.8656 for an appointment or visit

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ED entrance

May 16, 2022

Where Do I Go? Emergency Care vs. Urgent Care

It’s a Saturday morning, and your child has woken up with an earache. Your pediatrician’s office is closed, and you can’t wait until Monday for them to be seen. Should you take them to the emergency department or urgent care? 

This is a common question for many people and making the right choice can make a significant difference in time and cost. Where you seek care depends on the severity of the medical condition. 

Urgent Care

Freeman Urgent Care is a walk-in clinic staffed with board-certified physicians, nurse practitioners, registered nurses and x-ray technologists. Urgent Care is quick, convenient care for medical needs that are not life-threatening but can’t wait until your next doctor’s appointment. Patients should visit Freeman Urgent Care for the following types of care:

  • Cold
  • Flu
  • Insect bites and stings
  • Minor injuries
  • Mild or moderate aches and pains
  • Sinus pain and congestion
  • Skin rash
  • Sore throat
  • Sprains and strains
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Other minor medical concerns

Freeman has two urgent care locations, 1130 E. 32nd St. in Joplin, and 1636 S. Madison St. in Webb City. Patients can visit to check wait times at both locations or to save their place in line by utilizing Save My Spot, which enables patients to wait at home or work prior to visiting Urgent Care.   

Both Freeman Urgent Care locations are open 8:00 am – 8:00 pm Monday – Friday and 10:00 am – 6:00 pm Saturday and Sunday. 

Emergency Care

If you are in severe pain or your condition is endangering your life, call 911 or go to the closest emergency department. 

Our experienced and board-certified Freeman Emergency Department physicians and staff are trained to act quickly to recognize and treat the most urgent, time-sensitive cases first. Examples of medical emergencies patients should visit Freeman Emergency Room for include:

  • Suspected heart attack
  • Suspected stroke
  • Broken bones
  • Sudden or severe pain
  • Coughing up or vomiting blood
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

Freeman has two emergency room locations: Freeman West Emergency Room, 1102 W. 32nd St. in Joplin, which is certified by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services as a Level II Trauma Center, and Freeman Neosho Emergency Room at 113 W. Hickory St. in Neosho. Freeman’s emergency rooms are open and staffed 24/7.

No matter the severity of your medical condition, Freeman has the care you need. 

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Hypertension Stroke

May 03, 2022

Age is Just a Number When it Comes to Strokes

Did you know that stroke can happen at any age?

Up to 25% of strokes occur in individuals under the age of 45, and that number is on the rise. Cardiovascular diseases are the world’s leading cause of death, causing one in every three deaths, with 85% of those being due to heart attack and stroke.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a leading risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, including stroke. High blood pressure causes more than half of all cardiovascular deaths – an estimated 10 million deaths per year globally. This is nearly as many deaths each year as all infectious diseases combined! However, deaths due to hypertension are largely preventable.

Treating high blood pressure is simple and affordable. One medication daily is usually enough to manage high blood pressure. Many of these medications are available as generics, which are easier on the pocketbook than brand name medications. Tracking your blood pressure is also a quick and easy step for controlling high blood pressure. You could simply check your blood pressure at a kiosk in a local department store or pharmacy.

Purchasing a home blood pressure device is an affordable option for many people. Feel free to bring your home blood pressure monitor with you to your doctor visit if you want to check its accuracy or need help learning how to use it.

Be sure to jot the numbers down on your calendar or make a note in your phone to show your primary care provider. Many insurance plans cover one free wellness visit a year, which is an excellent opportunity to make sure your blood pressure is staying within an ideal range.

Basic lifestyle changes can also help lower high blood pressure and may help decrease or eliminate the need for medications. Try adding one simple change to your routine each month and see how it improves both your blood pressure and your overall health. The American Heart Association’s recommendations for controlling high blood pressure include:

  • Don’t smoke and avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Reach and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a healthy diet low in sodium and saturated and trans fat.
  • Limit sweets and red and processed meats.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish and nuts. Include foods rich in potassium.
  • Be physically active. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week.
  • Limit alcohol to no more than two drinks a day if you’re a man or one drink a day if you’re a woman.
  • Take all medicines as prescribed to control your blood pressure.
  • Know what your blood pressure should be and try to keep it at that level.
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Alcohol Awareness Month

Apr 18, 2022

Early Education for Alcoholism

Heavy alcohol use contributes to approximately 95,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. Over half of alcohol-related deaths are due to the health effects of extensive alcohol use, such as certain types of cancer, liver disease and heart disease.

Additional effects contributed to alcohol use include increased suicide risks, increased risk of violent behavior and negative impacts on families and friends. It is the third most preventable cause of death in the country, according to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Early education and public awareness are key factors in getting information out to individuals about the treatment and prevention of alcoholism.

Early education means having age-appropriate conversations with today’s youth on the harmful effects of alcohol and drugs, including both legal and medical. Kids’ exposure to the topic is inevitable, making it all the more important for parents to initiate the conversation early and often. Creating an opportunity to have an honest discussion with kids and providing the appropriate information before they are exposed to outside influences can make an important difference in their decision to use.

Raising awareness does not start and stop with parents, though. Community groups, schools, healthcare providers, faith-based organizations, law enforcement, substance use treatment facilities and others can help by running educational campaigns about the hazards of binge drinking and how to get treatment if you or someone you care about has a problem.

Excessive alcohol use causes damage to people, families, communities and society as a whole. Education is the key to lessening this devastation. Alcohol Awareness Month aims to dispel stereotypes about alcoholism and raise awareness about the disease.

The more we increase in public awareness of alcoholism as a chronic but treatable condition, the more people are willing to seek help. It saves lives to raise awareness about the dangers of alcohol, the symptoms of an alcohol problem and to improve access to treatment resources.

By promoting early education, you are helping to get information and treatment resources out before they are in need.


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