SPRINGFIELD, Minn. — Staying consistent is hard work. Often, unknown variables and outside elements work to disrupt the focus needed to achieve success. However, one Springfield group’s commitment to community wellness has proven to be a valuable model for staying the course, while also advocating for increased education and participation towards a healthier community.
A team effort
Known collectively today as the Community Wellness Team, this 15 member group, comprised of Scott Thoreson, Linda Carruthers, Alice Fasnacht, Peggy Larson, Jeff Kuehn, Pat Moriarty, Adam Meyer, Tanya Hovland, Donna Woidylla, Lindsy Ludewig, Lindsey Beyer, Becky Tonn, Chris Stark, Paul Tauer and Melissa Hoffmann, is on the brink of a major milestone as they convene for meeting No. 100 on Sept. 9.
“I knew it could be an amazing committee that could accomplish great things, and it certainly has lived up to that,” says Linda Carruthers, registered dietitian at Mayo Clinic Health System in Springfield. “We have had such a variety of people that have served on this committee, and each of them offers new ideas and different perspectives. This has been the driving force over the years and has allowed us to reach our 100th meeting.”
The team first began gathering in April 2008 as a pilot project designed to address the issue of childhood obesity within the community.
“At the time we first met, the group was known as the Springfield Childhood Wellness Task Force,” says Scott Thoreson, Mayo Clinic Health System in Springfield site administrator. “Our team consisted of various community representatives. One of our goals as a task force was to find out, on average, the prevalence of childhood obesity in our K-6 school children and to see if, through education and other interventions, body mass index (BMI) scores could be reduced during the school year.”
Upon discovery that 38 percent of the school-aged children population in Springfield were obese or at risk of obesity, greater than the U. S. average of 33 percent, the task force focused early efforts in the school’s themselves. Classroom “brain breaks” were introduced as brief moments of physical activity between academic subjects. In addition, heart monitor watches were purchased and used during physical education classes to better educate students the effects exercise has on the heart. Students were also taught the importance nutrition and exercise played in their daily lives.
Over the years, the task force continued to meet and provide various initiatives, with community wellness always at the forefront. Past campaigns involved an educational video series, grocery store tours and wellness reward coupons for fresh fruits and vegetables, community walk events, numerous health-related classes, a Halloween candy trade-in and a healthy snack program at Springfield Public School. Throughout, public response has remained supportive, with an increasing number of people participating in events.
Growth and expansion
As time has progressed, so too have the messaging efforts of the Community Wellness Team. In recent years, they have expanded from the promotion of wellness in the classroom to including the broader community and people of all ages.
“We saw the success of our early school campaigns as the beginning of a continued effort that had the potential to transition to a broader audience,” says Thoreson. “Wellness can be promoted at all ages. We have chosen to additionally focus on adults now, as they have the power to purchase healthy foods and control the amount of screen time for kids. They are the gatekeepers for the younger generation, and it’s essential to tap into that relationship for a healthier community.”
The “living better, longer” concept
One of the inspirations driving today’s Community Wellness Team comes from a review of literature on people around the world living longer, healthier lives. “In 2013 I attended a conference on wellness and learned about health and longevity,” says Carruthers. “There are areas throughout the world where people live longer, healthier lives. When we look at the commonalities of the people living in these specified regions, patterns emerge that each of us can engage in to improve our quality of life and hopefully add to our longevity.”
Longevity is exactly what the Community Wellness Team will be celebrating during meeting 100. Looking back, members know the consistency of their meetings is special.
“Many groups and committees seem to start and stop, or simply run out of ideas,” explains Thoreson. “However, this group never runs out of ideas or enthusiasm, and I believe this continues to be the key to our success. We will continue to provide more education on health and wellness to our community members.”
Living healthy is something we should all try our best at. It takes time, effort and, just like the approach employed by Springfield’s Community Wellness Team, consistency is key.
“I have been on the Community Wellness Team since August 2013 and have seen many positive things accomplished in our community,” says team member Donna Woidylla. “I love the community walk Monday evenings for people of all ages, including family pets. It’s a chance to connect with others while exercising. I’m very excited for future endeavors. We have a wonderful group of people working for the same goals — the wellness of our minds, our bodies and our souls. Our motto is to live better, longer!”
Mayo Clinic Health System consists of clinics, hospitals and other facilities that serve the health care needs of people in more than 60 communities in Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The community-based providers, paired with the resources and expertise of Mayo Clinic, enable patients in the region to receive the highest-quality health care close to home.