Archive for January, 2010

Wellness in Aspen, Colorado

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Almost three years ago, my daughter moved to Aspen, Colorado, to study and ski. I have visited numerous times in all four seasons. What impresses me most about Aspen is the wellness of the community. The people are active in the outdoors throughout the year. They are fishing, white water rafting, hiking in the summer, spring and fall. They live for skiing in the winter. There are open air markets with food and local art. Their buses are hybrid technology and free for all to use. Bike paths are readily available. For a city with a population of 5,900 (compared to 5,005 in Chelsea), it is downright impressive to experience. 

The attitude in Colorado is different than the attitude I feel in Michigan. With our longstanding economic depression, despair and hopelessness are very apparent. Obesity is prevalent. In Colorado, many of the residents choose to stay in low paying jobs in order to live the lifestyle that Colorado offers. Wellness is a priority, and the culture of health and vitality is absolutely contagious, to residents and visitors. 

As a board member of the Chelsea Wellness Foundation, I hope to bring some of these attitudes to our area. Let’s make wellness a priority in Michigan. Let’s find ways to enjoy the outdoors year round– skiing, hiking, skating, snow shoeing, even playing in the snow with our kids and pets. Let’s create a culture of health and vitality in our 5 healthy towns, one that is impressive, contagious and an inspiration to others.

 

Diane and Kate, in Aspen

Are You In?

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

I’m thinking of starting the Dee Edington fan club.

Dr. Edington wrote a book called Zero Trends. I haven’t finished it yet, but the intent of the book seems clear.  We have to change the way we think about health.

He wants us to think about health, not as an absence of disease or pain but rather as having energy, mobility and independence so we can lead full lives for as long as possible.

I’m in!

First, he wants us to focus on the majority who are well.  We have to find ways to keep large, healthy segments of the population well.

The CWF is in!

He says we have to find models to ‘champion’.  This group of people can teach us how to become vigilant about maintaining our health.

Teams like those at the Chelsea Wellness Center are in!

He says we have to become ‘self-leaders’.  We should set reasonable, achievable goals – sometimes as simple as holding our current state of wellbeing.

Are you in?

Show Me the Money

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

The CWF was funded on May 1, 2009. I suspect many of you are wondering what the heck we’ve been doing since then. Perhaps you’re even wondering what happened to the $25 million.

We started by setting up the office – space, furniture, computers and servers, staff, lawyers, insurance… It was surprisingly challenging but we love what we’ve accomplished. Come see us in the clock tower if you’re in the area.

We needed a reputable investment company to take good care of our endowment. We investigated several firms and our finance committee invested a great deal of time in the selection of the Commonfund. They are currently investing our money and we’re all hoping there will be plenty of return from those investments so we can use the returns for wellness initiatives.

Perhaps the biggest challenge we encountered resulted from our desire to make sure the money will really make a difference in the health & wellness of our service area. We spent months trying to determine what makes a well community. What is the difference between communities known for healthy residents and those communities known for poor health? In the end, we discovered it depends on the access to things that make people healthy and the behavior of residents.

We learned a lot about healthy communities. We learned they are walkable, bikable, provide opportunities for the purchase of fresh and healthy food, have few smokers, and support a population interested in making choices that positively impact their personal health. For instance, Boulder County Colorado has nearly the same demographics (income, age, race…) as Western Washtenaw County (WWC) yet is considerably healthier, according to survey results. Interestingly, only 10% of Boulder’s residents are sedentary, compared to more than 20% in WWC. What do we need to do to reduce the number of sedentary residents in WWC?

Using the information we learned we began our strategic planning. Can you imagine 14 board members, all of whom are fully engaged and excited about what can be done, coming to terms with a focused approach? We had our hands full of energy and enthusiasm, not to mention opinions. And it was really fun! When it was all said and done we settled on a mission to create a culture of wellness and foster sustainable improvements in the health of our communities.

Our vision – easy to remember, is to be the healthiest communities in the Midwest. We envision residents who eat better, move more, avoid tobacco (& other unhealthy substances) and connect with others in healthy ways.

And now, we’re ready to take the message of what the CWF can do for you (and you for yourself) out into the streets. We have a website, brochures, business cards and a plan. Over the next 12 months we’ll be looking for ways to engage people like you.  Happy, Healthy New Year!

Commitment

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

In late 2009 our Board of Directors (BOD) met to talk about our next steps. We’ve spent a lot of time and energy getting ready to chase our vision to be the healthiest communities in the Midwest and now it’s time to, literally, put our money where our mouth is. But how best to get started?

During the brainstorming session Pat Conlin suggested each board member commit to one, personal health goal for 2010. Hmmmm.  Is it important for the BOD to take an active role in improving their own ‘wellness’?

Let me tell you about our BOD. It’s a wonderful mix of business people, health enthusiasts and health care professionals. More than a few of us are overweight. It’s probably true most of us make an effort to exercise regularly but rarely make our exercise goals, week to week (although a few of us are actually quite successful). We have a definite interest in cookies when we share a meal and for Christmas Judy Nold, our Board Chair, made each of us a delicious, satisfying plate of shortbread as a way to thank everyone for their hard work. We are not willing to give that up!

What I’m trying to say, essentially, is we’re just like most of the people you know. You should find some comfort knowing we’re completely fallible. We know it’s hard to consistently make healthy choices. When our Board talks about next steps, the research is important. But so are our personal experiences, shortfalls and persistent internal Board questions about what would work for each of us and people like us.
I don’t know if it’s important for the CWF BOD to commit to a personal health goal. But I do know it won’t hurt any of us if we decide to make the commitment.

Starting with small changes we can sustain as individuals and as communities, together we will bring about the population wellness we envision.