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Make the Time to Fit Better Health into Your Lifestyle

April 03, 2012

National Public Health Week Focuses on Awareness, Promoting Healthy Behavior

National Public Health Week, observed April 2-8 this year, mobilizes communities across the country to recognize the contributions of public health, according to the American Public Health Association (APHA).

The APHA cites that nearly 1 million Americans die every year from diseases that could be prevented, and that even small preventive changes and community initiatives can make a big difference in living healthier lives.

The question is: where do you find reliable information to support your health and wellness goals?

"People are inundated with information, and as a community hospital it is vital that we provide appropriate and correct information," says Ruth Traylor, Washington Hospital's Director of Community Outreach. "People are very, very busy, but it's important that they make their health a priority."

This is why access to educational and preventive services is critical, she says.

"By offering free programs we ensure that everyone has access. Washington Hospital offers a wide variety of health education seminars, screenings, and services which provide a number of avenues for people to receive information, education, and preventative services."

Traylor says that community members often drive new Washington Hospital Healthcare System programs and services by asking for what they need - whether it's a community seminar about shingles or a free screening event for stroke-related risk factors.

"We encourage feedback in terms of what community members want and need, and we also want to bring awareness to the many programs that are currently available," she says. "We try to look at what's cutting edge - the latest and greatest information out there - but we also measure how we're going to address that information consistently and appropriately. We address the fads and trends that people see on the news, as well chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

"We're looking at it from the perspective of health for all people in the community, and we want our programs to meet all the different facets and areas of health to provide community members with comprehensive information."

Paulette Grilli, R.N., a Public Health Nurse and Washington Hospital's Health Promotion Manager, says a major component to better health is physical activity.

"The word active means to be in action or in motion," Grilli explains. "The body is always in motion - even internally it's in motion. It's humans that become stagnant. By design, we're supposed to move, and when we don't move, we create blockages that cause stiffness and tightness; those blocks may eventually affect our health."

Grilli points out that overall as a society we've become very sedentary, between commuting to work, sitting at work, and watching TV at home. Fortunately, she has several tips for becoming more active, while warning that the most important thing is to have fun - or you won't stick with it.

"Simple things are great, like walking more, maybe during your lunch break - or maybe you park farther away in the parking lot at work or at the shopping center," she says. "Go to the mall and walk around - anything to get you up and moving.

"I tell people to do what they like, to pursue hobbies, to do things that make them happy and that they enjoy doing. The real deal is to go do what you love - play with your dog, go fishing, do something that's enjoyable."

She says the reason why so many New Year's resolutions fail is because people don't really want to do them, which makes it hard to remain consistent.

"Make family dates to spend time with another family and do activities around the children such as biking, walking, or hiking," she adds. "We have play dates for kids, but not for adults. The human body at all ages is designed to move, and a sedentary lifestyle just creates rigidity in the mind and body."

Grilli says that ultimately the idea of healthy living - including things like being active and eating well - boils down to cost versus savings.

"Prevention is an important facet of public health," she explains. "Diseases and illnesses have costs, in terms of limiting function and causing human suffering, as well as the cost of treatment, the cost of drugs, and the societal costs. Prevention helps save lives, pain and health care dollars."

Grilli encourages people to actively seek out ways to improve their health, including attending free seminars and preventive screenings, because the better informed people are, the better they are at protecting their health.

"I think part of active living means becoming an active partner in your health, and when you do that, you maximize your chances of living a long, healthy, and productive life," she says. "As an active partner in your health, it's important to address symptoms with your health care provider, but also to educate yourself on the causes of health conditions that you have and discuss treatment options; follow medical advice for treatment and home self-care; and schedule regular health care checkups, immunizations and age-appropriate health care screenings.

"All of these things fit in alignment with what we promote here at Washington Hospital."

To learn more about a wide range of free and low-cost educational and preventive services, visit www.whhs.com/community.

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