NMC Commentary

Is It Time for a Wake-up Call on the Health of Future Generations?

Yes!  The results reported for our 1st, 3rd, and 5th graders in a recent measurement study has to stop all of us in our tracks as a community.  41% of our youngest children are overweight or obese: a fact we face today which, if we do nothing now, will result in an epidemic of chronic disease that will spin our quality of life and our cost of healthcare out of control.  We have an opportunity to intervene as a community with our children now.  It is true we are not just facing it here, it is an issue of the greater society in which we live.  Our life choices today impact our health of tomorrow.  Let’s join together, wrap around our communities, and lead the change that creates a healthier environment for our children and the generations to come. RiseVT is taking it seriously by leading a community-based movement to embrace healthy lifestyle. Individuals, families, schools, businesses, healthcare providers, municipalities, are joining together and investing time and resources into making the healthy choice the easy choice so we can all enjoy a healthier and less costly future. I am excited to share examples of these efforts in motion right here in our community.

Our schools are great partners in this. More than 50 classrooms spread across all five supervisory unions have welcomed RiseVT to help amplify and accelerate their efforts to integrate active play, healthier eating, mindfulness, and other wellness strategies into their daily routines. I have seen some of these efforts first hand while touring local schools and they are impressive.  These can contribute to better health and better academic performance. Schools and supervisory unions are working on advancing their wellness policies.  Grand Isle Supervisory Union is beginning to work with RiseVT within their curriculum development. Having wellness embedded in our schools for our children is key to the formation of healthier habits.

Research shows that school-based efforts are more successful when the rest of the community wraps around them with a supportive wellness culture.  That is beginning to happen here. Municipalities are increasing their focus on total wellbeing.  I am impressed by the new smoke-free ordinance in Alburgh and the sidewalks they are building.  It is great to see St. Albans City and St. Albans Town working together on a Route 7 project which should increase walkability and bikeability. RiseVT is helping with a new kayak loan program in Enosburg and an upcoming bike loan program in Richford.  There is great promise in the growing collaboration between all of the recreation commissions in the area.  Employers and businesses are stepping up with wellness policies, programming, and challenges.  Employees of the Swanton Village, Northwest Access Television, and Community College of Vermont have enjoyed improvement with health coaching through RiseVT. Local medical providers are distributing state park passes and even ‘playscriptions’ to help individuals and families enjoy being more active. RiseVT is amplifying the many great resources for active play available right here in our community – from our trails to waterways to playgrounds to the programming of so many local facilities and partners.  Participation in the RiseVT show-ups has been very strong as people are getting out, getting together, trying new things, and finding how enjoyable healthy activities can be.

Research shows that this broad commitment to wellness and prevention actually leads long term to a reduction in unhealthy weights, which is key to preventing chronic disease, improving quality of life, and reducing healthcare costs.  Our community is leading the way and inspiring others.  RiseVT is now rolling out statewide, with traction in Lamoille County, Bennington County, Chittenden County, and beyond.  NMC, Vermont’s hospitals, and the OneCareVT accountable care organization will continue to expand the reach and impact of RiseVT across the state. We will continue to partner with the Vermont Department of Health to engage individuals, families, schools, businesses, and municipalities to create a culture of wellness. We will ask the Green Mountain Care Board for the budgetary latitude to invest in primary prevention and pursue resources from other sectors for sustainability – as research shows each dollar invested in prevention leverages a five-dollar return in five years.

Let’s do this!  We can prevent the chronic disease epidemic by each one of us committing to developing healthy choices, creating healthy infrastructure across our communities, and role modeling the behavior we want for our children, our future.  We will take it one step at a time together and having fun doing it. To join the RiseVT movement, please visit www.risevt.org , connect with us on social media, or watch for wellness news in the St. Albans Messenger.

Together we can change the future for Franklin and Grand Isle.

— Jill Berry Bowen, CEO of Northwestern Medical Center