Sun Health Center for Health & Wellbeing Celebrates Its First Anniversary

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The center was created to help older adults, many suffering from chronic health problems, to make lifestyle changes centered around healthier eating, physical activity and stress management. Two new locations were recently added to respond to the popularity of the programs, which are yielding promising results.

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Exercise physiologist and health coach Rhonda Zonoozi teaches groups and individuals how to get and stay fit at the Sun Health Center for Health & Wellbeing.

I feel that the lifestyle changes that I made in the last three months have now become permanent, and I anticipate that my results a year from now will be even better.

Since its opening last March, the Sun Health Center for Health & Wellbeing has touched the lives of thousands of West Valley residents through health education and fitness classes, support groups and individual consultations designed to help them live longer, healthier lives.

One of those lives is Diana (who asked that her last name be withheld), a 56-year-old Sun City resident whose physician gave her three months to lower her cholesterol and blood pressure or face taking medications to address her symptoms. Diana took several nutrition and exercise-related classes at the center and it paid off.

“I took your teaching about diet and exercise to ‘heart,’ and I wanted you to know my results after those three months,” Diana wrote in an email. “I lost 15-pounds; my total cholesterol went down 30 points to 185 with my HDL (“good” cholesterol) going up 3 points; my triglycerides dropped 25 points and my blood pressure dropped 8 points…my doctor was surprised and very pleased.”

Diana’s story is just one example of positive changes linked to the center (see infographic for more), which is staffed by a full-time registered dietitian/certified diabetes educator; an exercise physiologist/certified health coach and a memory care/dementia expert. In addition, the center contracts with a licensed acupuncturist, several licensed massage therapists, yoga and Tai Chi instructors and a medical director.

The original center opened in Surprise but it recently expanded to two other West Valley communities, Sun City and Litchfield Park. All three centers are located in areas largely populated by adults 65 and older, many of whom have one or more chronic diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic diseases—like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer—are leading causes of death and disability in the United States.

Jennifer Drago, Sun Health’s executive vice president of Population Health, says all of the center’s programs and treatments are rooted in research. “We use evidence-based programs designed to complement physicians’ diagnoses and recommended treatments. We give people, especially those with chronic conditions, tools to help them self-manage their health, make positive lifestyle changes and improve their overall quality of life.”

The center’s staff members see about 100 clients a week (through group classes or 1-on-1 consultations) with services ranging from nutrition counseling, medical nutrition therapy and weight management classes to fitness and exercise classes, acupuncture, massage and medication reviews. Center staff members also provide evidence-based educational programs that address diabetes, pre-diabetes, living with chronic conditions and tobacco cessation.

The Sun Health Center for Health & Wellbeing reflects a national trend toward prevention and wellness services and a growing push for Americans to become more involved in managing their own health.

“Chronic diseases are among the most common and costly of all health problems in the United States,” Drago said. “They are also some of the most preventable. Much of the pain and suffering related to chronic diseases is caused by behaviors that people can change, behaviors such as unhealthy eating and a lack of physical activity. How people exercise, what they eat, how they handle stress is very much tied to their health.”

The center is largely funded by donations to Sun Health Foundation, which enables the center to offer the majority of its health education classes for free or at low cost.

Diana is thankful for that and she’s looking forward to her next visit with her physician. “I feel that the lifestyle changes that I made in the last three months have now become permanent, and I anticipate that my results a year from now will be even better.”

About Sun Health
A long-standing community partner championing healthy living, nonprofit Sun Health is a community-based health care organization providing pathways to Population Health through philanthropy, senior living, community wellness and superior health care. Learn more at http://www.sunhealth.org and http://www.sunhealthwellbeing.org.

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John Tucker
Sun Health
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Ken Reinstein
Sun Health
since: 03/2011
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