Supporting Home and Community-based Health Services for Chicago’s Medically Underserved

2008 Super Star in Community Nursing Award Runner Up

THE VISITING NURSE ASSOCIATION FOUNDATION OF CHICAGO HONORS LOCAL COMMUNITY NURSE THE RUNNER-UP OF ITS 2008 “SUPER STAR” IN COMMUNITY NURSING AWARD

Theresa Heaton, MPH, RN Receives $10,000 Award and Recognition for her Commitment to Public Health Nursing in Kane County

CHICAGO – October 2008

Diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity – during pregnancy, the risk of conditions such as these among expectant mothers is heightened, as is the health and well-being of the unborn baby. Prenatal care is essential for women who are expecting, but for the financially unstable, at-risk mothers, prenatal care is not as accessible. Theresa Heaton, MPH, RN, has been named the 2008 runner-up of the VNA Foundation’s 2008 Super Star in Community Nursing Award for her exceptional work in the prenatal care arena and throughout her career as an advocate for public health in Kane County, as well as in the state of Illinois.

Heaton is the Director of Family Health for the Kane County Health Department where she advocates for the health of underserved mothers and babies. Her love for public health can be seen through her innovative methods that enhance community health projects and programs that have improved the lives of thousands.

“The strides Theresa has made in her community and the positive impact her efforts have had on her patients are what earned her this recognition,” said Robert DiLeonardi, Executive Director of the VNA Foundation of Chicago. “Theresa is sparking positive change in the public health nursing sector and leaving big footprints throughout the state of Illinois. She plays a pivotal role in providing much-needed care to the community and we are excited to see what issue she will try to tackle next.”

Heaton focuses on improving the health of those who are particularly at high risk for low birth weight, premature birth and infant death – especially African-American babies who are dying at rates nearly three times that of all babies in Kane County. She sought support from female African-American influencers in her community to form the Circles of Wise Women, a coalition that works to raise awareness and increase education surrounding infant mortality.

In addition to organizing the Circles of Wise Women (now in its second year), Heaton has been instrumental in the development of the Kane Kares Nurse Family Partnership, an evidence-based intensive nurse home visitation program. She recently celebrated the enrollment of the 500th Kane Kares family and is constantly thinking of new ways to spotlight this intervention program. Her long-term dedication and commitment to community members can also be illustrated through the Kane County Prenatal Committee, which Theresa formed more than 10 years ago and has since resulted in earlier prenatal care, an increase in developmental screening and the execution of domestic violence and depression screening pilot projects.

“Ever since my first home visit as a nursing student, I felt I was destined to work in the community health sector,” says Heaton. “Advocating for and executing new programming that inevitably helps the community as a whole is both gratifying and humbling, and receiving an honor like this is just icing on the cake!”

When she’s not at the Health Department, Heaton actively participates in furthering the practice of public health nursing as an executive board member of the Illinois Public Health Nurse Administrators (IPHNA) and a Governance Council Member of the American Public Health Association (APHA).

Theresa received her bachelor’s of science and nursing degree from St. Louis University, after graduating with a B.A. in Education from St. Ambrose College. Always one to look for ways to further her knowledge, she continued to pursue her education and received her master’s of public health from St. Louis University while working as a registered nurse at a local hospital. After getting her MPH, she went on to hold a variety of managerial and executive positions in the healthcare industry. For the past 10 years, she has served her most rewarding position as the Family Health Director for Kane County, where she continues to be an influential member of the community.

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