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Lessons learned, wellness project looks to future

WILLMAR -- From the first day, outreach was a big priority for Rice Memorial Hospital's ReYou wellness program.There were biometric screenings, cooking demonstrations, fitness events, stress-relief painting classes. The ReYou staff worked with bu...

Abby MacHolda and Sheila Irons
Abby MacHolda, left, and Sheila Irons demonstrate an office-friendly exercise in the Rice Hospital Garden Court. The two business analysts do a five-minute routine of squats, thrusts, jumping jacks, arm circles and skates to an exercise video. (RAND MIDDLETON | TRIBUNE)

WILLMAR - From the first day, outreach was a big priority for Rice Memorial Hospital’s ReYou wellness program.
There were biometric screenings, cooking demonstrations, fitness events, stress-relief painting classes. The ReYou staff worked with businesses, local organizations and communities of color.
Its accomplishments recently earned recognition from the George Family Foundation, along with a $5,000 grant to support ReYou as it moves into the next phase.
“I feel like we’ve helped make a lot of connections in the community. Hopefully it will help better us in the long run,” said Amber Chevalier, wellness coordination and health coach for the program.
ReYou was among 13 hospital-based wellness initiatives launched in Minnesota and Wisconsin in 2013 through a Healthy Communities Partnership project with the George Family Foundation. The goal: to shift health care’s traditional focus on acute care to one that promotes health and well-being.
Now that the initial grant funding has expired, ReYou is looking to the future.
Program staff say they have learned a lot in the past three years about local needs, priorities and challenges when it comes to chronic disease prevention and wellness.
“I would say our greatest feat was reaching a huge number of people,” Chevalier said. “I feel like we hit a good spectrum of the community.”
Among the statistics logged during the three years of the grant:

  • A kickoff Color Run that drew more than 1,100 participants.
  • 1,700 free biometric screenings for adults, some of whom hadn’t had their blood pressure or cholesterol checked in years.
  • Collaboration with more than 40 local organizations to provide wellness and prevention services.

“I think we have a better idea now of what worked,” said Joy Baker, Rice Hospital marketing manager. One of the lessons the staff hopes to carry forward is that accessibility matters. People were more likely to take advantage of ReYou services and events when they were convenient, said Chevalier and Lynn Stier, director of the Rice Memorial Hospital rehabilitation department.
Staff found that local businesses, especially small employers, want to implement wellness opportunities but need help doing so.
One of the biggest surprises was the interest in stress management. Of all the activities offered through ReYou, stress reduction was among the most in demand.
A goal of ReYou was to expand people’s notions of wellness beyond nutrition and physical activity to include work-life balance, sleep and other key areas, Stier said.
“ReYou has really focused on all the pieces of wellness. I feel I look at health differently than in the past.”
The strong response to stress reduction activities was “very good for us to see,” Chevalier agreed. “If your stress isn’t managed, everything else goes downhill too.”
One-on-one health coaching, another of the services through ReYou, was another successful feature that set the program apart, she said.
Challenges were identified as well. Getting people to return for follow-up screening after their initial biometric screening proved difficult, Chevalier said.
The program uncovered a gap in low-cost nutrition resources, which was filled by partnering with Coborn’s and Cash Wise Foods to implement the NuVal nutritional scoring system for grocery shoppers.
When the Healthy Communities Partnership with the George Foundation was launched three years ago, one of the goals was to enhance the role of health systems within community wellness infrastructures, said Gayle Ober, president of the George Family Foundation. The project also sought to improve community wellness through screening and education and to create long-term sustainability.
“In only three short years, we recognized that no community would fully meet the three (Healthy Communities Partnership) objectives,” she said. “However, we hoped that each of the 13 communities would make significant progress toward these three goals.”
All of the participating health systems were able to build connections that helped them engage more deeply in community wellness, Ober said. They also reached beyond their own walls to involve the public and to focus on local health needs, she said.
One area in which ReYou stood out was its outreach, she said.
“Rice Memorial made significant efforts to have their program reach not only the white members of their community, but also their growing Hispanic and Somali communities. This included hiring interpreters and tailoring programs to be culturally appropriate for those two groups.”
As ReYou shifts into the next phase, the focus will continue to be on adult wellness in the workplace and community. A package of wellness services was developed to offer to employers, along with a quarterly community wellness series addressing topics such as fitness, resiliency and nutrition.
There are plans to continue with fee-based biometric screening too.
“That was a challenging piece of it - the sustainability,” Baker said. “It’s been a key component to make sure it continues.”
The project has been a chance for Rice Hospital to expand its identity, Stier said.
“Hospitals are more than just a place of sickness. They’re a place of wellness.”
Working with ReYou “has been a dream,” Baker said. “This is all about fun and health and positivity in a time when health care has not necessarily been those things. To have this to focus on and put this out there to the community was a great positive for the hospital.”

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