PRESIDENT AND CEO
Editor’s Note: The following is the first in a series of columns about community wellness programs in Fulton County. The bi-weekly columns will be written by individuals associated with the FCMC Foundation’s Reaching Wellness program, which will be offering the wellness activities.
In October of 2011, the Fulton County Medical Center (FCMC) Foundation held a community meeting at the Medical Center. That evening more than three dozen people interacted about their hopes and frustrations when it came to getting and staying healthy. The force leading up to the meeting was initiated by two mothers in our community, Hillary Alexander and Catherine Washabaugh.
After starting their families in Fulton County, Hillary and Catherine realized that there was a gap – a wide one – in what was available to area residents who wanted safe, healthy activities for their families – not just for young children, but for parents and grandparents alike.
Hillary and Catherine approached Jason Hawkins at FCMC, who in turn introduced them to me. At that time, I was executive director of the foundation.
We have started slowly, discovering that many individuals and groups have been working toward providing healthy activities. We have gathered these activities into one place and started advertising them and listing them at the Fulton County Chamber of Commerce Web site www.fultoncountypa.com.
For several months, Reaching Wellness collected data on what types of activities the community would like to see, and how they thought such activities could be paid for. 350 respondents completed the nine-question survey. More than threequarters were from households headed by two adults and the average household size was three people. The average household income of respondents was more than 10 percent above the U.S. Census median.
Cardiovascular disease and diabetes are at high rates in Fulton County like almost everywhere else in the U.S. The cost of hospitalization for these diseases is especially high in Fulton County. The rate of kidney failure for diabetes is one of the highest in the state; therefore, this movement toward wellness is timely.
Respondents thought that social support was the most significant factor in wellness, with nutrition, spirituality and not using or moderation of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use, following close behind.
A majority of respondents did not choose any single area of activity as an interest. The most selected area was “fitness classes,” which may indicate a lack of understanding about wellness in general. The second mostdesired area was “swimming and pool activities” and the third-highest response was for “healthy cooking programs.” These selections seem to agree with the perception of nutrition as important, and, it would follow that “fitness classes” should include social support and the spiritual nature of wellness as well.
While respondents thought that the government should do its share in providing funding for programs, few were willing to pay more taxes for them. A majority, however, was willing to pay for programs themselves.
Recommendations include establishing creative ways to engage the public and including social and psychological support as one of the main components of any approach.
Reaching Wellness has also consulted with Elizabeth George, M.D., from Mercersburg about how they have started and run their local MACWell (Mercersburg Area Community Wellness) program. Dr. George’s efforts to run cooking classes and share healthy diet information have inspired the Reaching Wellness folks in Fulton County.
In May of this year, Reaching Wellness created a mission and a working definition of wellness: “Wellness is the foundation of a lifelong desire for health which is defined by a balance of our physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual selves and its interaction with the world and environment. Achieving wellness results in an enriched and empowered quality of life.” Therefore, our mission is to build a lifelong foundation for health by providing the tools necessary to reach wellness.
Since the number-one request was to have fitness classes in the community, our local experts will be creating a wellness curriculum that will show, step by step, ways to achieve – and maintain – wellness. Our methods will be accessible to everyone, and, we will turn no one away who desires or needs to learn the path to health.
Please visit the Chamber of Commerce Web site and watch The Fulton County News or find Fulton County Medical Center Foundation on Facebook and “like” us to learn more about our activities. Our full fitness curriculum will be offered by January of 2013, and we are adding new classes and activities all the time. Please join us!