Learning for life

All of us have something to learn about improving our health and the health of our community. There are always new avenues that will enable us to grow, live well and find more balance and joy in our days. Some of us need help getting healthy food to our tables. Some of us need support for managing the condition of our bodies. Some of us need emotional support as we navigate important life transitions and events. Heck, some of us need all of the above.

Well, thank goodness for our wellness community in Western North Carolina, where health education and support are more than just a business or service; it’s a way of life. From N.C state’s Cooperative Extension community cooking classes to Smart Start of Buncombe County’s initiatives to bring more physical activity to child care centers, organizations across the area are working hard to enhance our individual and collective well being.

Learning how to be our healthiest, happiest selves is a skill that will benefit us in every stage of life. Whatever issue you may need some extra help with, take a moment and reach out to one of the multitude of wellness specialists in our area to see how they might best support you. If that practitioner or organization doesn’t have the tools you need, they’ll likely be able to recommend another who does. The caretaker spirit that runs through our community brings with it a sense of hope that none of us need feel alone in our struggles. The door is wide open, so let’s reach out and start feeling better.

asked several local wellness organizations about their community health-focused, educational programs. Here’s what they had to say about their work.

Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project

Emily Jackson, program director

Field trips to local farms are just one of the many ways that ASAP’s Growing Minds Farm to School program brings healthy habits home for schoolchildren. Photo courtesy of the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project

Classroom cooking with locally grown foods. Local food taste tests in the cafeteria. School gardens. Farm field trips. What do all these activities have in common? They’re all part of ASAP’s Growing Minds Farm to School program. At ASAP, we believe that wellness begins with knowing where your food comes from, who grew it and how to cook it.

The Growing Minds Farm to School program provides resources and training to teachers, schools and preschools, child nutrition directors, cafeteria staff, parents, extension agents, farmers and other community stakeholders to encourage and sustain farm-to-school efforts. When children have positive experiences with locally grown food, they are connecting with fresh, whole fruits and vegetables — foods that are healthy by default. Working within school environments, we help ensure that all children have access to fresh, locally grown food.

To get involved with ASAP’s Growing Minds Farm to School program, please visit growing-minds.org, or contact Brittany Wager at brittany@asapconnections.org.

CarePartners Health Services

Nancy Lindell
, public relations/marketing manager

CarePartners offers a variety of educational opportunities to support physical health and mobility, including aquatics classes. Photo courtesy of CarePartners

CarePartners offers services in rehabilitation, home health care, adult day care and hospice. We also offer services and classes to help people stay well. Preventive services can help people retain their independent lifestyle in a variety of ways. For example, we have an Easy on the Joints aquatic class that targets muscle toning, strengthening and flexibility to support mobility. The BackHab aquatic class is water exercise that focuses on improving core strength and relearning functional movement patterns that carry over to activities of daily living. Did you know that Western North Carolina leads the nation in accidental falls? Tai chi is a proven way to prevent falling, and we offer those classes as well.

Mental wellness can be as important as physical wellness, and CarePartners offers a variety of grief counseling options, including individual and group sessions. Yoga is now offered as a way to deal with loss thanks to our Yoga for Grief program. We have support groups for those dealing with things such as being a caregiver, brain injury, arthritis, paralysis, Parkinson’s and more. We also have a class series starting in March called Mindful Living. The sessions will deal with elder law, balance issues, memory, integrative health and related topics.

For more information on most CarePartners classes, call 274-9567; aquatic classes are at ext. 4380; Mindful Living and Support Groups, ext. 8379. To check out their Yoga for Grief program, call 251-0126. Call 230-0522 if you’re interested in CarePartners Tai chi.

N.C. State University Cooperative Extension

Cathy Hohenstein, extension agent

Cathy Hohenstein demonstrates how to cook chili at one of Cooperative Extension’s Cook Smart cooking classes. Photo by Haley Steinhardt

January is a time when many of us focus on health and make resolutions to be healthier. For more than 100 years, Cooperative Extension has been helping North Carolinians become healthier through providing educational programs and sharing research-based information on nutrition, growing, preserving and cooking foods, and on finding ways to keep families healthy and strong. We now have educational programs for eating smart and moving more through our Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), such as our Eat Smart Move More Weigh Less weight-management program, our Cook Smart cooking classes and demonstrations and our other food preservation, canning and health classes.

If you are looking to grow your own food, or you’re interested in home and community gardening, our Master Gardener’s program provides educational programs and volunteers who are available to answer calls and help walk-ins. 

We are also the place to call for answers. We will look up the most up-to-date, researched information and get you your answers. Our services are for the whole community and we are available to come out and speak with groups as needed.

To learn more about the NCSU Cooperative Extension program, call 255-5522, email Cathy Hohenstein at cathy_hohenstein@ncsu.edu, or visit buncombe.ces.ncsu.edu.

Integrative Family Medicine of Asheville

Chad Krisel, MD, and Brian Lewis, MD

The doctors of Integrative Family Medicine of Asheville: Chad Krisel, MD, Veena Somani, MD, and Brian Lewis, MD. Rachael McIntosh

Our everyday choices are our most powerful medicine. We offer classes to empower the Asheville community to make wise decisions and to create an environment where healthy options are possible. It is hard to lead a healthy lifestyle without good information, access to quality food, places to exercise and social support. For many, these essential ingredients are not readily available.

As integrative family physicians, we realize that to promote health we need to treat an individual’s whole life. There are many forces that impact our health, and the majority of chronic illness can be prevented or reversed. Traditional clinics often do not have the time to both teach the skills and support the changes that are required to prevent and reverse these diseases. Our classes range from nutrition to home gardening to anything that promotes a healthy Asheville at the individual and community level. Our goal in treating on the individual and the community level is to promote positive feedback where individuals become increasingly aware and create an environment where healthy choices are an easy option.

Our clinic is an example of using lifestyle and integrative approaches to nurture sustainable health in the most natural ways possible. No doctor or clinic can do this alone, and through collaboration we encourage a culture of health that becomes the new status quo. To heal health care, we will need to heal our culture, and we are happy to be in Asheville, where this shift is well underway.

Integrative Family Medicine of Asheville can be reached at 575-9600, or online at integrativeasheville.org.

Land-of-Sky Regional Council

Rebecca Chaplin
, aging program specialist

Rebecca Chaplin is the aging program specialist at Land-of-Sky Regional Council. Carrie Turner

The programs and initiatives available through the Land-of-Sky Regional Council Area Agency on Aging and our community partners are designed to support individuals and systems in transforming problems into solutions. Two of our main areas of focus are chronic disease self-management and fall prevention. Why? We as a community can make a difference in these areas. 

We are living longer with chronic diseases. These conditions come at great cost to the health care system and quality of life. But good news! We can start today in learning the skills to manage our health condition. Our Chronic Disease Self-Management Program from Stanford University helps people to feel empowered, not overpowered.

Our fall-prevention programs address the fact that one-third of adults aged 65 and older fall each year. Thirty percent of falls end in moderate to severe injury and cost $13,000 on average. Are you ready to transform this problem into a solution? Sixty to seventy percent of falls are preventable! Home safety, leg strength and balance, medication usage and mindful movement are some of the modifiable risk factors. Not all issues can be transformed with these self-management tools, but some can be. Our wellness programs and services are intended to be used in concert with — not in isolation from — your health care team so you get a full range of support.

Visit livinghealthywnc.org to learn more about the Land-Of-Sky Regional Council’s Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, including a schedule of upcoming classes. For information on their WNC fall prevention coalition and related community resources, check out wncfallpreventioncoalition.org.

Smart Start of Buncombe County

Amy Barry
, executive director

Teacher Amy Sosebee gets her class moving at Regent Park Early Childhood Development Center. Photo courtesy of Smart Start of Buncombe County

Healthy eating and physical activity habits are formed in the early years of life. Smart Start of Buncombe County is part of a statewide initiative called Shape NC that is working on obesity prevention strategies for the next generation. We’re working with child care centers to improve nutrition and physical activity. We help them to enhance their outdoor classrooms in order to encourage naturalized environments and more outdoor time. We’re also convening a diverse group of people with our Shape Stakeholders Committee to create a community action plan for how to share health education with families that don’t use child care.

One successful partnership created by our stakeholders was with the Buncombe County Public Libraries. With some training and gross motor kits, children’s librarians were able to incorporate movement into their regular story times. Smart Start of Buncombe County serves as the Shape NC hub for the western region, and we provide technical assistance for all of the western counties working on obesity prevention in young children. The Shape NC initiative is funded by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC Foundation.

For more information, visit smartstart-buncombe.org.

The Health Equity Project

Alma Atkins, project coordinator

The Health Equity Project works to end health disparity with free screenings and education initiatives.

Everyone should have the same opportunity to live healthy lives regardless of their income, education or ethnic background. Community partners, with funding from N.C. Office of Minority Health, are working with Buncombe County Health and Human Services to offer screenings and health management programs that help African-Americans with chronic diseases improve their health. 

Minorities can go to events offering a health screening to find out if they have a chronic disease and are then connected to a regular physician, learn how and when to contact them, get help with accessing insurance or transportation and have opportunities to participate in special classes if they have a chronic disease like diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease. 

Project partners include Land of Sky, which coordinates the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP) and trains leaders to teach it in the community; ABIPA coordinates community outreach events, and offers health screenings and health programs; Mt. Zion provides Project EMPOWER at local schools; YWCA coordinates outreach events and offers diabetes prevention and diabetes wellness programs; UNC Asheville’s Center for Health & Wellness helps evaluate the results of the partnership. 

To learn more about services or become a partner, contact Alma Atkins, project coordinator of the Health Equity Project, by calling (828) 250-5319.

— Haley Steinhardt is an Asheville writer. haley.steinhardt@live.com.


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About Haley Steinhardt
Haley Steinhardt is a freelance writer for the Mountain Xpress. She also owns and operates Soul Tree Publications (soultreepublications.com), a publishing support business in West Asheville.

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