PINEHURST – Holly Sinnott heard about the opening for an Exercise Is Medicine (EIM) coordinator with the FirstHealth Centers for Health & Fitness and knew immediately that the position was right for her.
“I saw this job, and I felt strongly that I could make an impact,” she says.
Sinnott has been with FirstHealth since early April. Her job involves further developing and increasing participation in EIM, a physician referral program available through all six Centers for Health & Fitness that encourages patients to pursue a healthier lifestyle through physical activity.
John Caliri, director of the Centers for Health & Fitness, says she’s definitely the right person for the job. “Holly brings both background and experience in public health to FirstHealth, and we are happy to add those talents to our EIM program,” he says. “Her demonstrated skills in organizing and growing health- and activity-related programming will help us refine and deliver a better product to our EIM patients and their physicians.”
A military wife whose husband is a sergeant first class with the Green Berets, Sinnott has an undergraduate degree in history from the University of Florida and a master’s degree in public health from Georgia Southern University. As a graduate assistant in the Health and Kinesiology department at Georgia Southern, she taught Healthful Living and Physical Activity classes to undergraduates. The experience and a subsequent job with a Healthy Workplace initiative with the city of Nashville, Tenn., convinced her that she was in the right line of work.
“Everything fell into place,” she says. “Something about helping and educating people really resonated with me.”
While with Nashville’s Metropolitan Public Health Department, Sinnott worked on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ “Communities Putting Prevention to Work” program, helping develop the city’s “Prescription for a Healthy Workplace.” Nashville’s 10 largest employers – including Vanderbilt University and Hospital, Nissan and Bridgestone Tires – collaborated on the successful effort to introduce health changes to their employees by focusing on physical activity, access to healthy foods and beverages, lactation support, tobacco-free campuses and active transportation.
The workers (a combined total of 100,000 of them) were then encouraged to take what they had learned home with them in an effort to improve the community’s health.
“It really developed community involvement,” Sinnott says.
The goal of FirstHealth’s EIM program is also to change health perceptions. Participants work individually with a specially trained exercise technologist to develop a personal program of physical activity that can be followed in any exercise environment.
There is no cost to take part in the program that encourages physicians to prescribe exercise for their patients just as they might prescribe medications to prevent or treat injury or chronic illness.
Currently, 181 physicians representing 18 different medical specialties refer patients ages 16 and above to EIM. As an EIM participant, the patient can choose either a three-month home program or a six-month membership option at any of the six FirstHealth fitness centers.
In both programs, the patient meets one on one with the exercise specialist for an initial assessment, exercise plan and follow-up.
Sinnott wants to build on the program’s collaborative approach and keep the network communicating while developing a system that is even more participant-friendly.
“I want physicians to keep encouraging their patients to participate,” she says. “We want to make sure that this program is reaching out.”