Maria Martin: The Wellness Neighborhood making a difference in Truckee Tahoe community
Health care is more than just going to the doctor when you are sick. In addition to providing excellent care for patients in our clinics and in the hospital, Tahoe Forest Health System supports the health of our community through programs that promote wellness.
Every three years, the Health System conducts a Community Health Needs Assessment to understand the broad health concerns of our community and develop strategies to address them. The survey helps identify issues that affect the greatest number of people and cause the greatest amount of death and disability. The results year over year show that the most significant health risks in the Tahoe Truckee community relate to substance use, mental health and overweight/obesity, including behaviors such as diet and exercise.
Health Promotion & Disease Prevention
The Wellness Neighborhood is a department of Tahoe Forest Health System responsible for implementing wellness and disease prevention programs based on the assessment. We have a team of professionals who are on a mission to educate, inspire and empower our community members to achieve their best health. Wellness Neighborhood interventions are collaborative and multifaceted to address mental and behavioral health, substance misuse, chronic disease, and prevention and wellness.
We have a strong partnership with our local schools to help youth develop healthy habits. The long standing Harvest of the Month program develops adventurous eaters by providing tastings of seasonal fruit or vegetables and nutrition education in the classroom each month. With the support of over 150 parent volunteers, this program reaches about 3,400 children in 144 classrooms each month! The B-FIT program promotes daily activity breaks and monthly wellness themes to support optimal learning and healthy habits for a lifetime. We also offer cooking classes, nutrition and health guest lectures, injury prevention, and support for wellness policy promotion and healthy school environments.
The Wellness Neighborhood not only collaborates with local schools, but also with county health departments and local non-profits to promote optimal dental health, immunizations, youth health, suicide prevention, cancer prevention, and blood pressure and blood sugar screenings at community events. Last year, we reached over 1,000 community members with our health screening events and helped those with high values connect with health-care services.
Coordination & Support
Living with a chronic condition can be stressful. The Wellness Neighborhood offers a variety of evidence-based self-management classes, support groups and other education resources and services to help community members better manage their condition and improve their quality of life. We provide services to create and sustain a healthy lifestyle, including overcoming the challenges of eating well, exercising effectively and managing stress. It’s so much more than just learning what to do — most participants already know that; it’s about learning how to do it with the resources and strengths you have.
New in 2019 is the Your Authentic Wellness program, developed to address the high level of depressive symptoms and stress identified in the Community Health Needs Assessment. In this free series of workshops, participants explore topics designed to support mental and physical well-being and practical skill building. Whether it is stress, insomnia, nutrition, lack of energy, feeling overwhelmed, or general habit change, we have you covered!
The Wellness Neighborhood also offers the support of a Youth Health Navigator for youth through age 24, and bilingual, bicultural Community Health Advocates/Promotoras to help our Latino patients receive culturally and language appropriate health services. These services aid individuals with complex medical and psychosocial conditions navigate the healthcare system and improve access to community and wellness resources.
Harry Weis, our CEO shares, “As a health system we are deeply committed to proactive health activities that improve the health status of all our residents. We have created collaborative health teams to actively engage our patients on any health challenge before it becomes serious.”
Truckee Tahoe may have a small population, but with the support of our Health System and community partners, The Wellness Neighborhood will continue to provide a wide range of options to support the health of all our residents.
Don’t know where to start? The Customer Care Navigators at the Tahoe Forest Center for Health will help you connect with services that best meet your needs. Our team is available seven days a week with your wellness goals in mind. We have something for everyone and many of our programs are free or low-cost.
Maria Martin, MPH, RDN, is director of Wellness Neighborhood and Community Health, Tahoe Forest Health System. You can reach Maria at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-550-6731.