CLARION – “Eat Right, Sleep Well, Stress Less and Move More.”
That, according to program manager Patti Kuniak, is the unofficial tag line of Butler Health System’s Health Management and Lifestyle Coaching program, which offers a variety of free health and wellness classes, seminars and food demonstrations through an evidence-based educational approach to help prevent and control weight management, diabetes and cardiovascular health.
“Those are the main diseases that we try to manage or prevent through lifestyle [changes],” Kuniak said noting that the programs are open to patients, the community and hospital employees.
According to Kuniak, the Volumetrics Weight Management series is based on research indicating that people require long intervention for weight management.
“It’s not a one and done,” she said, pointing out that studies from the American College of Cardiology and American Obesity Society show that an individual needs at least 14 interventions in a six-month period before habits are changed.
Kuniak explained that the weight management program is a 12-lesson class taught over six months that covers topics including how to eat, movement, sleeping and stress.
“Behavior change is very difficult, so we talk a lot about behavior change,” said Kuniak, a dietitian who teaches the classes, which meet on Wednesday evenings. “The classes have a support group atmosphere to them.”
Diabetes Lifestyle Coaching is a four-week series that Kuniak said was just completely revamped. It is taught by a physician assistant, a diabetes care and education specialist, a dietitian and a social worker who each take a different week.
“We teach the seven self-care behaviors for people with diabetes, according to the Association of Diabetes Care and Education,” she said, adding that the series is typically offered every other month. “I’m really happy because the quality of the instructors is phenomenal.”
The Lifestyle Coaching Heart Health Seminars explain how to help prevent and manage cardiovascular disease.
“We teach the DASH Diet, Heart Healthy Lifestyles, the Mediterranean Diet, [as well as] a Flexitarian and Plant-Based seminar,” Kuniak said.
In addition, the Lifestyle Coaching program offers other seminars on menu planning, self-care, brain health and a new class devoted to reducing barriers to physical activity.
“That’s what Lifestyle Coaching is,” Kuniak said, adding that the classes and seminars are “excellent resources” for physicians and other providers to utilize for their patients. “It’s trying to impact people’s lifestyles to decrease their risk of disease or to help manage chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, obesity.”
She noted again that the programs are offered complimentary by Butler Health System and, many seminar materials are included.
Kuniak pointed out that the Health Management and Lifestyle Coaching program was created by Butler Health System over a six-year period under three grants.
“The providers said they needed access for patients to get lifestyle education,” Kuniak said of why Butler Health System initially pursued the grants. “So we removed all the barriers by offering them for free.”
In fact, as part of its mission to promote health and well-being, Kuniak continued, Butler Health System absorbed the cost of the program after the grant funding ran out, so the program could continue free of cost to those who utilize it.
“It’s a commitment on their part,” she said of Butler Health System, noting that as a result of the merger, Clarion Hospital can continue providing the service it has offered since 2018 prior to its becoming part of BHS. “This is a resource available to Clarion because it is now part of BHS.”
“I think it’s important for the Clarion community to recognize that until we integrated and merged with BHS, we would have never had the resources to be able to offer the types of things we’re offering now,” added Bridget Thornton, Wellness Program director for BHS Clarion Hospital and coordinator for Clarion Hospital Foundation.
Kuniak went on to explain that while all classes were 100 percent in-person, the pandemic forced everything to be 100 percent virtual.
She said, however, things will partially return to normal on Thursday, July 21 when BHS will host its first of two in-person cooking demonstration and tasting in the conference room of the Health and Wellness Center at Trinity Point in Monroe Township.
“I’m excited,” Kuniak said of a Mediterranean Diet food demonstration that will be held following a seminar on the diet. While the seminar, which will take place from noon to 1 p.m., will be virtual, she said that those who attend the event at the Health and Wellness Center will take part in the food demonstration and tasting in-person, beginning at 1 p.m.
“This is our first live cooking demonstration in the new space; that’s a big deal,” she continued, noting that the conference room features a fully-stocked kitchen. “I’m looking forward to reconnecting with people and sharing good food and recipes.”
Thornton agreed, pointing out that while pandemic safety is still a priority, people respond to the programs better when they can meet in person.
“People do look for camaraderie when they’re trying to obtain a goal,” she said. “It’s that accountability, that sharing of stories or challenges or triumphs.”
Kuniak explained the choice to go live with the Mediterranean Diet because its widespread popularity and routinely No. 1 ranking by U.S. News and World Report as the best overall diet.
“It’s easy to follow and has a lot of health benefits and tastes good,” Kuniak said. “We’ve seen that people who eat this way have lower incidents of heart disease.”
She went on to say that the diet replaces sweets, ultra-processed foods and red meat with whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruit, and seafood.
“It’s a replacement diet,” she said, adding that the bottom of the Mediterranean Diet is physical activity. “It’s very popular.”
The seminar is open to everybody, and there is no need for a referral to participate. Pre-registration is required, however, because space is limited.
Kuniak said she believes the Lifestyle Coaching and food demonstration programs are a great educational tool for people to learn what they can do personally to improve their health.
“We see that people who are attending our programs are making positive changes in their lives,” she said.