Prevention Is In
Brunswick Wellness Coalition encourages healthy eating and active living through a variety of programs for Brunswick County residents.
As executive director of Dosher Memorial Foundation, Lynda Stanley is always on the lookout for new grant opportunities. In 2016 she hit the motherlode when she heard about The Duke Endowment’s Healthy People, Healthy Carolinas initiative and its grants program to promote healthy eating and active living throughout the state. Successful candidates would be awarded a $450,000 three-year renewable grant. That got Stanley’s attention!
She teamed up with Lindsay Maher, a grant-writing expert who was then the associate director of operations at Coastal Carolinas Health Alliance. Together they wrote the grant application for Dosher, largely based on the results of the newly completed Brunswick County Community Needs Assessment. This document clearly highlights the county’s need to address the problem of chronic diseases, specifically heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
In January 2017 Dosher Memorial Hospital announced that they were one of only 10 hospitals in the state to be awarded the coveted grant. Dosher immediately launched the Brunswick Wellness Coalition (BWC) and shortly thereafter hired Maher as its executive director. Having just the right combination of skills, education and experience to take on the job, Maher wasted no time in forming an impressive coalition of participating organizations and together they developed a vision for Brunswick County to become the healthiest county in North Carolina. It’s a goal they plan to achieve by using specific evidence-based programs and measurable goals.
“As these programs are implemented, the impact will grow exponentially,” Stanley says.
In addition to Dosher, the founding members of the coalition are Brunswick County Health Department, New Hope Clinic and the YMCA of Southeastern North Carolina, all of whom have collaborated on programs over the years. Since then four more organizations have joined the effort: New Hanover Regional Medical Center, Brunswick County Cooperative Extension, CommWell Health and Brunswick Senior Resources, Inc.
BWC is highly motivated to be successful because the results of recent surveys have surfaced some alarming statistics. Here are just a few:
- One out of every two adults has a chronic disease.
- About one in three people in North Carolina is considered obese.
- It is estimated that more than 5,000 children and 12,000 adults in Brunswick County are suffering from food insecurity, which is defined as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 80% of all heart disease, stroke and type II diabetes would be prevented if Americans would stop using tobacco, avoided excessive alcohol consumption, ate healthier and exercised more.
Sheila Roberts, New Hope Clinic executive director and chair of the BWC executive board, says she is excited about BWC because it increases the coordination between all the various health and wellness support systems within the county. Each one will now have the information to connect their clients or patients to other services that can help them.
One of the coalition’s strategies is to encourage community groups, churches and social organizations to sponsor wellness programs that promote healthier eating and regular exercise. Some already have.
Ocean View United Methodist Church on Oak Island sponsored the first program. The congregation was challenged to collectively walk 6,160 miles, which is the distance between Oak Island and Bethlehem. The campaign took place during the Advent season in 2017. Each Sunday morning the participants would log in the number of miles they walked during the previous week, and they got to Bethlehem!
Last March Dosher sponsored Spring into Health, a 5K run/1 mile walk starting at Dosher Hospital and continuing in downtown Southport. Along with some serious runners, there were some less competitive participants who simply enjoyed being a part of the event. And there were the Dosher Dashers and the Cardiac Cruisers, all of whom had been through cardiac rehabilitation at Dosher. Their presence was an inspiring visual proving the benefits of walking. Spring into Health is going to be an annual event, and the next one is scheduled for March 23, 2019, in Southport.
During the summer, BWC sponsored three County Care Fairs in Leland, Southport and Shallotte. Representatives from each of the coalition organizations were there to talk about what they do and how they can help the residents of the community. They provided free immunizations and screenings. They also offered information about foods that best provide the nutrients we need to live healthy lives.
In support of the coalition’s Give Healthy food campaign, Matthew’s Ministry sponsored a Give Healthy food drive in the fall. Matthew’s Ministry provides backpacks filled with food for food insecure students in the Brunswick County schools. For one month their donors were asked to contribute only healthy foods with reduced sodium, sugar and fat and increased amounts of protein and fiber. Matthew’s Ministry Founder and Executive Director Kristie Disbrow says, “It is my hope that the kids will like these new foods and they will continue to make healthy food choices.”
Stephanie Bowen, executive director of Brunswick Family Assistance, is a big supporter of the Give Healthy campaign. “It is even more important for food pantry clients to eat nutrient rich foods because they often don’t have as many meals,” she says.
In December the food pantry at Camp United Methodist Church in Shallotte sponsored two cooking healthy classes using the food that is available in their pantry. In the first session an estimated 50 people watched N.C. Cooperative Extension Nutrition Educator Morgan McNight and two volunteers cook sweet potato turkey chili. In the second session they learned how to prepare a sweet potato bake. Most of the attendees gave both meals a thumbs up, and more than 60 percent said they look forward to making these dishes at home.
The coalition’s next series of programs is the Walk With A Doc opportunity to get some exercise and ask a medical professional questions about your health. The place and dates are not yet confirmed, but Boiling Spring Lakes is high on the list of possibilities. And the “doc” may be a doctor, nurse, dietician or anyone else from the healthcare profession.
Maher says her strategy is all about prevention. She likes to turn around the familiar phrase “the doctor is in” to say “prevention is in.” And she follows that with a list of suggestions to help us stay healthy and function at a higher level. Her list includes the usual choices for foods to emphasize and those to avoid as well as specific guidance for upping our exercise schedule: 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week for adults and at least one hour of moderate to intense exercise every day for children and teens. According to Maher, our reward will be feeling better, looking better, performing better and enjoying life more.
Dosher Memorial Hospital President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Siemers put it perfectly when he said this at the announcement of The Duke Endowment grant: “This is a big day for our organization and our community, but the big winners are the people who live in the community.”
Want to help others get well?
If your organization or group would like to sponsor a wellness program, Maher would love to hear from you. She can be reached by phone at (910) 444-1872 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.