Arnot Health Leads the Way in Creating Healthy Places

From promoting community gardens and installing better lighting in public parks, to working with local restaurants to offer healthier food options, an Arnot Health-led community collaboration is making a major impact on population health in Chemung County.

Chemung County received a “Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work, and Play” grant from the New York State Department of Health in 2010. The program is designed to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes. Arnot Health applied for the grant as the lead agency for the County, and won an award of $850,000, which was implemented over five years. With the support of more than thirty community groups and partner agencies, the program has demonstrated impressive, impactful results and has laid the groundwork for long-term sustainability.

“From a population health perspective, this program helps prevent chronic disease, and has tied in very well with Arnot Health’s overall vision of improving the health of the community,” says Rosemary Anthony, BSN,MSE,RN, Arnot Health’s Senior Director of Population Health. “It has also been instrumental in helping us to build a collaborative partnership with the local community. The future of medicine is geared toward getting outside the walls of the hospital and building a health infrastructure within the larger community. It is a real paradigm shift.”

Arnot Health has devoted significant resources to this program, including hiring Constance Scudder as its first-ever Creating Healthy Places Grant Facilitator.

According to Ms. Scudder, “We had a set of goals to achieve. Our work plan and budget were met by what we agreed upon with our community partners and according to the requirements of the grant. We are proud to have worked with over 30 community partners on this grant— from the non-profit, education, private industry, public health, political, transportation and local government sectors. What is unique about this partnership is its diversity and the focus on policy, systems, and environmental changes.”

The mission of Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work, and Play is based upon four prongs: improving local parks and playgrounds, enabling easier and safer access, creating community gardens, and working with restaurants to offer healthier eating choices.

United Way Day of Action - Arnot Health

Volunteers paint a hopscotch court as part of the United Way Day of Action in 2015.

The goal of easier and safer access to parks and recreation areas was tackled through such initiatives as: a new crosswalk on Lake Street in Elmira to provide greater accessibility to McKinnon Park, six new crosswalks and tactile ramps at Grove Park, and new universal playground signs for all nine parks that received improvements. Also, through collaboration with the City of Elmira, bike racks were installed on all City busses, allowing children and adults greater door-to-door access to healthy, active recreational options throughout the City.

Another success story has been the creation and support of community gardens throughout the County.

Community gardens were established using mini grants at Quatrano Park, the Town of Erin Community Garden, Woodlawn Community Garden (shared with Tanglewood Nature Center and Frontline Ministries),  and the Near Westside Neighborhood Association. Additionally, a MEWU (Mobile, Edible Wall Unit) was purchased for Diven Elementary School but was moved to Hendy Elementary under the district reorganization plan. Two MUGS (Mobile Upright Gardens) were purchased for use at the Southside Community Center and another is currently in use at the Economic Opportunity Program of Chemung and Schuyler Counties.

Five “pizza gardens” were purchased with a grant from Pizza Hut through their “Raising Dough for Kids Program” for use at Head Start and at the Chemung County YWCA and YMCA. In addition, funding was provided to existing community gardens to refurbish them with additional amenities at the Equal Opportunity Program, Katy Leary Park, and at Pirozzolo Park.

The gardens have been immensely popular— the Southside Community Center garden can see up to four hundred students passing through each week. And whole neighborhoods have jumped in with enthusiasm. At the Quatrano Park community garden, which is overseen by ARC of Chemung, residents, ARC staff, and neighbors collaborated in the garden’s first year to donate 140 pounds of produce to the Food Bank of the Southern Tier.

Arnot Health also worked with five local restaurants to encourage their patrons to choose healthier dining choices by using a salt substitute, offering salad dressings served on the side, providing doggie bags earlier in the meal to encourage portion control, and promoting non-sweetened beverages rather than sugary soft drinks. The local Elmira-area restaurant partners are Classic Café, Hill Top Inn, the Starlite Room, Turtle Leaf Café, and Charlie’s Café.

Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work, and Play has already made a statistical impact on population health in the local area. Chemung County, long mired near the bottom of the list of 62 counties in New York State in terms of overall health, rose one place to 59th in the most recent state rankings. Although factors like unemployment and poverty still plague the region, Chemung County showed a strong improvement in the area of “access to physical activity” from 2014 to 2015. There was a statistically significant improvement in this health indicator due to the work of the Creating Healthy Places initiative. 

The program has received numerous awards and accolades, including the inaugural Age-Friendly Community Award in May 2015 from the Chemung County Department of Aging and Long-term Care. Creating Healthy Places has also garnered recognition as a best practice from the New York State Division of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention, and Arnot Health’s efforts were named an Outstanding Community Outreach Program by the New York Association of Rural Health.

Although the Creating Healthy Places grant expires this year, the success of the program has spurred Arnot Health to apply for a new five-year grant application through the New York State Department of Health. The $1.25 million “Creating Healthy Schools and Communities” grant was submitted by The Student Support Services Center of the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership as the lead agency with Arnot Health as a co-collaborator.

But perhaps the best reward is in seeing the direct impact that Creating Healthy Places is having on health in our community.

“I am very, very proud that it has really provided a successful example of what can be done when people work together through a shared mission,” says Rosemary Anthony. “We are one of the few hospitals that has a Population Health Department and dedicated staff to work on community health initiatives. This program has widened the vision of what can be done outside of a hospital, to help people make the right decisions and enjoy better health for the rest of their lives.”

Blandford Park Elmira - Ribbon Cutting

A ribbon-cutting ceremony marks the opening of the playground at Blandford Park in Elmira.

Nicer Weather May Cause More Injuries

The nice weather is upon us and the urge to push the kids outdoors for some quality fresh air and playtime is overwhelming. This time of year is full of possibilities, including the possibility of injuries. For a variety of reasons, emergency room visits increase as much as 15-20% for children and young adults in the spring and summer. Let’s take a look at some of those injuries and common causes and see if we can’t put a little more focus on safety.

Spring & Summertime Injuries:

With a sudden increase in outdoor activities, emergency room visits for this age group also increase. Typical injuries include:

  • Wrist Fractures
  • Ankle Fractures
  • Repetitive Motion Injuries
  • Sprains
  • Stress Fractures

Children and young adults are growing. Where the bones are actively lengthening (a.k.a. wrists, ankles, etc.) the structure can be weakened and fracture easily.

What You Can Do Throughout The Year:

Being dormant and inactive throughout the long winter months is of particular concern not only for your overall health, but can be a large contributor to injury numbers. Muscles are cold and weakened, tendons are tight, and for growing children, still adjusting to their new size. One of the most important things you can do to prevent injury is to stay active, and keep your children active, throughout the year. Make sure they are moving and stretching indoors throughout the long winters. Make sure to switch it up, working in strength, cardio, and aerobic exercise year-round.

Once the Nice Weather is Upon You:

When the days get longer and the temperature finally reaches acceptable levels, take it slow. Try to gradually ease your kids back into the full swing of strenuous activities. Too much too fast is taxing on the body. A 30 mile bike ride or a marathon session of pitch and catch may sound like a perfect way to spend the first nice day of the year but doing too much too fast can be, simply put, too much. In addition to taking it slow to start, you can also make sure you take the usual precautions associated with outdoor safety such as:

  • Bike Helmets
  • Wrist Guards
  • Knee Pads
  • Shin Guards

A quick note about safety equipment: Please don’t merely dust it off and send it out with the kids. Make sure the equipment fits properly and is in good condition; kids can grow a lot in just a few months, so last year’s sizes may be too small this year.

Trampolines:

In addition to all the things listed above, some outdoor activities are just not a good idea. Backyard trampolines are the cause of a surprising number of injuries and should probably, for peace of mind alone, be avoided. Ankle Injuries, wrist injuries, back injuries, and neck injuries abound, and those are just the most common. There are plenty of other fun things to do outside, the risk may not be worth the bounce.

For more information, or to talk or schedule an appointment with Dr. Beth Dollinger, click here to find her contact information listed in our provider directory.