Community leaders gather to discuss wellness

GREENFIELD — Hancock Regional Hospital brought together area business leaders this week for a conversation about how best to get residents on the path toward healthier lifestyles — starting in the workplace.

More than 60 county stakeholders gathered in the Sue Ann Wortman Cancer Center on Wednesday for the hospital’s “Idea Share,” a program aimed at identifying fitness and wellness programs already in place in Hancock County and those that could easily be added to make healthy living more attainable.

The efforts are part of the hospital’s ongoing shift toward a population healthcare model — or investing in ongoing care that focuses on a patient’s wellness rather than their illness, as hospital officials put it.

One day, the hospital hopes to lead the community to a special designation from the nonprofit Wellness Council of Indiana, marking Hancock County an “Indiana Healthy Community” that meets wellness standards that promote quality of life.

This week’s conversation centered on how to incorporate healthy choices into the workplace. If employees are forming healthy habits at work, there will likely be a ripple effect to their home life, families and beyond, said Danielle Daugherty, the hospital’s healthy community coordinator.

It all starts with small changes, Daugherty told the crowd: instead of donuts as a snack at an office meeting, offer carrot sticks or encourage a group walk during those meetings instead of sitting around a conference table.

Those little efforts go a long way, Daugherty said. As proof, she took a quick poll of how many people gathered used the stairs to get to Wednesday’s meeting on the second floor of the cancer center after seeing a sign directing them toward the staircase on their right rather than the elevator on their left.

In small groups, community leaders shared what their businesses or organizations do to encourage healthy decision-making. Everyone was encouraged to take the positive things they learned from their peers back to their offices and implement those changes.

Dave Gray, director of the Hancock County Public Library, shared that his staff created its own wellness committee three years ago, which regularly coordinates health-centered events for employees.

Last summer, the staff conducted a step-tracking contest to encourage employees to get up and move, Gray said. The library also implemented a rewards program in which employees can earn time off for healthy choices, he said.

Wednesday’s conversation led him to more ideas for activity-based staff programs, and he hoped telling others of the library’s efforts was helpful for other organizations.

“It makes you think what you actually can do,” Gray said.

Daugherty was hired in January as the hospital’s first healthy community coordinator in an effort to spark the healthy-living conversations that would ignite change, hospital CEO Steve Long said. The purpose of her position is to serve as an ambassador to the community, encouraging people eat, move and think differently, while always striving to make healthiest decisions, he said.

Wednesday was the first of many conversations the hospital hopes to have with different facets of the community.

Already, the hospital’s efforts have made progress, Long told those gathered. The hospital has already submitted an application on behalf of the community for an Indiana Healthy Community designation. That application is being considered by the state’s wellness council. The results should serve as a blueprint for how best to move forward with the initiative and sustain it in the future, he said.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.