Poor diet and sedentary lifestyle are leading contributors to mortality and increased risk for most chronic diseases. Hospitals can expand and strengthen their impact on the community’s health and wellness by providing education on lifestyle and dietary changes. In 2018, Ellenville Regional Rural Health Network initiated the Rural Health Network Wellness Program, a community wellness program to improve population health, free of cost. Established in 2017, ERRHN is a partnership between Ellenville Regional Hospital, the Ulster County Department of Health and the Institute for Family Health.
The RHN Wellness Program includes many initiatives covering various aspects of healthy living. The “Farm-acy,” a partnership between The Hudson Valley Food Bank, Ulster County Community Action, Ulster Correction Facility and RHN, offers free fruits and vegetables in the hospital lobby two Thursdays each month. While people are in line, various health demonstrations are provided on healthy living topics.
Another initiative gives families a healthy, seven-day meal plan based on the nearby Shoprite’s weekly circular to keep costs low. The printed packet also includes the week’s shopping list, prices and recipes.
Additionally, ERRHN organizes group exercise, including walking groups, Tai Chi and Chair Yoga classes for seniors and a twice-weekly, four-month physical therapy program to help prevent heart attacks or to improve stamina after a heart attack. Nutrition education services such as grocery store shopping tours and family cooking classes, and consultations with a nutritionist are also available. Free medical tests and assessments such as calcium scoring CAT scans, carotid artery ultrasounds, “heart age” screenings, blood pressure and glucose screenings are offered and do not require insurance. The program can also enroll all members of the family, including children, to help reduce childhood obesity and long-term chronic disease outcomes.
To date, the program has enrolled 114 adults and 31 children. While the adult cohort has an average age of 53.3, the average heart age (calculated using the CDC heart age calculator) is 68.5. On average, at enrollment adults in the cohort have a heart age that is 16.25 years older than their actual age and an average 10-year risk of heart attack or stroke of 17.4%. For child participants, at enrollment, 24% were in a normal weight range (under the 85th BMI percentile), 17% were in the overweight range (between the 85th and 95th percentile), 59% were in the obese weight range (over the 95th BMI percentile) and three were at the 100th BMI percentile. A small number of cohort participants have just reached their six-month enrollment mark and reassessments are showing some promising indicators of risk reduction.
For more information, contact Victoria Reid, LMSW, executive director, Rural Health Network, at (845) 647-6400, ext. 326 or firstname.lastname@example.org.