Wellness Articles

Featured Article in Buffalo Healthy Living

COVID-19 Highlights Our Poor Health

By: Christian Soto, Americorps VISTA Leader

As our country grapples with the all-consuming effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released an important statistic reflecting America’s baseline health in relation to surviving the virus. The CDC stated that 94 percent of those who have died from COVID-19 in the last seven months had other health conditions that also contributed to their deaths.

This information is not necessarily surprising, as medical experts have confirmed all along that COVID-19 would have a more severe impact on individuals with underlying conditions. However it must be noted that despite the high cost of health care in the U.S., the people who live here are in relatively poor health, as compared to other developed nations, making us more susceptible to infectious diseases.

The numbers are clear. Worldwide there have been 31 million cases of the virus and 962,000 deaths, yet the U.S. accounts for nearly 20 percent of all cases, with more than 7 million cases and 204,000 deaths. According to the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, the U.S. has the fifth highest fatality rate per every 100,000 affected individuals. Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index places the U.S. at 35 out of 169 countries behind Cuba (30), Chile and Costa Rica (tied for 33) despite disproportionate funding for healthcare in these countries. On average, the U.S. spent roughly double the amount of money per individual in 2017 compared to other nations. To further highlight our poor health, the CDC estimates that 6 out of every 10 adults in the U.S. suffers from a chronic condition, and that four in 10 adults have two or more chronic conditions. These chronic conditions include heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease, and drive the nation’s $3.5 trillion in annual health care costs.

This combination of poor health and expensive healthcare is also true for the Buffalo Niagara region. The Population Health Collaborative estimated that the Buffalo Niagara region spent roughly $1.3 billion in healthcare expenses related to chronic diseases resulting in $1.2 billion in lost productivity.

According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation county health rankings, Erie county ranks 56 out of 62 in New York state. To address our region’s poor health, the Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo and Western New York recently launched Healthy Communities 2030, a decade-long initiative to promote environmental, economic, social, and healthy human capital through advocacy, activities, workshops, and education. To learn more about Healthy Communities 2030! please visit www.creatinghealthycommunities.org/.

The Importance of Youth Physical Education During a Pandemic

By: Caila Wagar, Community Health Advocate – Featured in Buffalo Rising!

During a time of so much uncertainty – one thing is certain; children need to stay active. As the pandemic continues to surge across America, more school districts are opting to some form of remote learning. With remote learning comes a lack of critical resources otherwise provided by the school, such as physical education classes.

How important is physical education for children? According to the CDC, when students participate in physical education, their grades and standardized test scores improve, they stay on-task better in the classroom, and increase their overall physical activity level. All in all, physical education helps the brain work better and more effectively, leading children to perform better in the classroom. As the pandemic is causing school districts to adopt remote practices for the upcoming Fall, it is inevitable students will miss out on crucial physical education time.

Some schools have already announced their ideas for supplementation of physical education for students. For example, Buffalo Public Schools announced their intended plan for physical education instruction if classes are in-person or remote. In-person physical education which abides to the CDC guidelines, include individual sports/activities rather than group such as dance, sports without equipment, mindfulness, etc. The school district’s suggested curriculum for remote physical education features a variety of online resources and incorporates remote special events (i.e. At-Home Family Field Day).

However, despite the school district’s best efforts to incorporate physical education, children may still be far from the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Both teachers and parents can do their part to help ensure children are staying active during the pandemic.

All teachers can incorporate movement into online learning by adopting some of the following:

  • Encourage students to take a 5-10-minute break during long stretches of online learning to engage in an activity of their choice
  • Have students share how they are staying active (i.e. walking, running, playing sports)
  • Show students different ways to set up your work from home desk, such as a standing desk, and encourage students to change their posture throughout the day

Parents can also help provide their children with physical activity through the following:

  • Educate your child on the importance of staying active
  • Make physical activity a family routine (i.e. family walks or bike rides)
  • Encourage outside play
  • Use online videos or virtual fitness classes
  • Provide children with high fitness level chores (i.e. vacuuming or sweeping)

As we are amid a public health crisis, physical education is more important now than ever. While classrooms may remain closed this Fall, it does not mean children should remain inside and inactive. Physical activity decreases stress, anxiety, and depression while boosting your immune system and improving overall wellbeing. As this pandemic has placed many parts of our daily life on pause, physical activity among children should not be one of them. Whether you are a teacher, parent, or community member, encourage the children in your world to be healthy and stay active.

Healthy Communities 2030! Appoints New Executive Director!

The Healthy Communities 2030! Team kicks off its new fiscal year for 2020-21 by appointing Lucy Connery as the new Executive Director! Founder of the Wellness Institute and long-time Executive Director, Phil Haberstro, reflects on his 30+ year journey of Creating Healthy Communities in the Greater Buffalo & Western New York Region, stating “I am very excited to pass the baton to ‘LC’ and am confident she will manage and lead the Healthy Communities 2030! Initiative to do great things for our community health.”

Connery recently graduated from Daemen College’s Master of Public Health Department with dual degrees in Public Health and Spanish. Connery has been with the Healthy Communities 2030! Team for over 18 months now, and has demonstrated leadership and professionalism in her writing, presentation, education, and health promotion in our local communities. Some of the Executive Director’s first responsibilities will include planning, implementing, and evaluating the WNY WALKS! Second Annual Walkability Summit in August, 2020, and continuing to partner with the CDC and Cicatelli Associates, Inc. on their REACH (Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health) Project along the East Ferry Street Corridor. Healthy Communities 2030! was founded on values of collaboration, inclusion, and strategy in order to address community health comprehensively, and Connery will continue to demonstrate these values beginning in July 2020!


Healthy Community Interview
It's Not Just the Coronavirus Putting WNY's Health at Risk

From the Buffalo News Editorial Board

Western New Yorkers are an unhealthy lot. Add in the novel coronavirus and the effect this pandemic is having on an already compromised population and the forecast appears less than favorable. It is challenging to envision exercise during a statewide “pause” demanding that citizens stay at home, practice social distancing and frequent hand washing in order to “flatten the curve” of coronavirus, or Covid-19. Still, the region’s poor health requires making some adjustments. For those capable, get up, stand in place and “walk” or, while practicing social distancing, walk outside.

These are basic, nonscientific suggestions. Scientists and medical professionals offer advice and guidelines available online and in books and journals….

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Personal Passion Benefits Communal Health

Phil Haberstro and his Wellness Institute continue to tear down walls in Western New York minds, and build bridges with partners throughout the region.

“You’re talking about changing the culture, similar to what we’ve done with tobacco,” proclaims Philip L. Haberstro, executive director of the Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo.

It’s a refrain anyone who has spent time listening to Haberstro’s message has heard more than once.

Of course, “repetition is the mother of skill,” to quote Anthony Robbins, the celebrity life coach who’s been known to advocate his own passion for change.

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