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Dr. Courtney Baechler, Wellness and Prevention Expert, Speaks at Grand Itasca

11/16/2012

Grand Rapids MN - The statistics are real – at least 40 percent of the deaths and 75 percent of all chronic diseases in the U.S. are attributed to four lifestyle behaviors: unhealthy eating, inadequate exercise, smoking and hazardous drinking. These and additional facts that support the importance of prevention and wellness were what Dr. Courtney Baechler, Vice President of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing with Allina Hospitals, presented to Grand Itasca providers at their weekly Continuing Medical Education conference on November 9th.

 

Grand Rapids MN - The statistics are real – at least 40 percent of the deaths and 75 percent of all chronic diseases in the U.S. are attributed to four lifestyle behaviors: unhealthy eating, inadequate exercise, smoking and hazardous drinking. These and additional facts that support the importance of prevention and wellness were what Dr. Courtney Baechler, Vice President of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing with Allina Hospitals, presented to Grand Itasca providers at their weekly Continuing Medical Education conference on November 9th.   

Dr. Baechler’s visit to Grand Itasca was on behalf of the Healthy Communities Partnership program that is poised to begin this month at Grand Itasca.  The Grand Itasca program, tagged “Lead by Example”, will kick-off with its own employees in early 2013.  In 2014, the wellness program will be offered to other area employers, community groups and individuals interested in improving their health. The ultimate goal is to help create positive change in habits, behaviors and attitudes that impact health outcomes in Itasca County and surrounding areas.  In her presentation, Dr. Baechler stressed the point that personal lifestyle choices have the most significant impact on an individual’s health.  “Only 5 to 10 percent of a person’s risk for heart disease can be attributed to genetics,” Dr. Baechler stated.  “The rest is attributed to behaviors – specifically, unhealthy eating, inadequate exercise, smoking and hazardous drinking.”

The Itasca County community is no different than many other communities nationwide – in fact, the tobacco use rate is higher than the state and national average, and fewer than 15 percent of Itasca County adults eat the recommended 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day.  Dr. Baechler also showed slides that the obesity trend in Minnesota has risen exponentially from 1985 to 2012.  She further explained, “It is impossible for genetics to be responsible for the incredible shift in obesity rates that has occurred over the last two decades.” This fact and other unfavorable health indicators point to the importance of wellness and prevention as keys to improving the health outcomes.  “Those facts are also why Allina Health and the George Foundation selected 13 health care organizations from across Greater Minnesota and Western Wisconsin to participate in a regional health improvement partnership.  Grand Itasca is one of the partners,” said Dr. Baechler. 

While each of the participating communities will customize the program to meet their specific needs, there are 5 core components that need to be present in each program. These are:

  • Create an inventory of accessible wellness resources in the community;
  • Provide health screenings to an adult population, free of charge to participants;
  • Help individuals understand their screening results and connect them to appropriate wellness resources through a wellness coach;
  • Re-screen the population each year to track progress;
  • Engage a variety of community stakeholders in program leadership.

Also in attendance at the conference was Bri Solem, who was recently hired as the Healthy Communities Partnership Coordinator and Wellness Coach at Grand Itasca.  Bri, who previously worked as a health and wellness program consultant at HealthPartners commented, “It’s important for people to have a better understanding of how their choices and behaviors impact their health, and that the consequences of poor nutrition, inactivity, smoking and irresponsible alcohol consumption significantly impact and affect one’s quality of life, as well as their health care spending.  By being proactive and making some lifestyle changes before it’s too late, everyone can benefit.“

Allina Health is dedicated to the prevention and treatment of illness and enhancing the greater health of individuals, families and communities throughout Minnesota and Western Wisconsin.

The George Family Foundation is a private grant-making organization with an emphasis on leveraged, strategic funding. The Foundation funds innovative ideas in integrative health, education, leadership development, social justice and spirituality in everyday life.

Grand Itasca Clinic and Hospital is a non-profit, integrated delivery system that employs over 600 people. The integrated clinic and hospital, described as a “modern expression of hospitality and healing” is home to over 60 physicians and other care providers including specialists in Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Ob/Gyn, Pediatrics, Orthopedics, Oncology, ENT, Urology, General and Reconstructive Surgery and Podiatry.

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