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S.C., New York City visitors get healthy environment tips from FHC

| Date Posted: 3/21/2011

PINEHURST – Representatives of the South Carolina Hospital Association and some of its member hospitals learned about the various healthy environment changes that FirstHealth of the Carolinas has made on its campuses during a March 11 site visit to FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital.

Hospital Tour

Among those visiting FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital during a March 11 site visit arranged by NC Prevention Partners were (from left) Lisa Kopera, Greenville (S.C.) Hospital System; Marie Bresnahan, New York City Department of Health; and Jim Head, South Carolina Hospital Association.

A Duke Endowment grant is allowing NC Prevention Partners (NCPP) to replicate in South Carolina what it has already done regarding healthy hospital environments (nutrition, physical activity, tobacco-free campus status) in North Carolina. Since FirstHealth has served as an NCPP Center of Excellence for several years, Moore Regional was selected for the recent site visit.

The same day, the visiting group, which included a representative from the New York City Health Department, also spent time on the campus of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, another NCPP Center of Excellence.

NCPP is a statewide nonprofit and leader in reducing preventable illness and early death caused by tobacco use, poor nutrition and physical inactivity. Its mission is “prevention first for a healthier North Carolina.”

Linda Harte, health programs manager for FirstHealth Community Health Services, welcomed the visiting group to the Moore Regional campus and introduced three members of the Community Health staff who presented overviews of several FirstHealth healthy environments.

Health educator and tobacco treatment specialist Cindy Laton talked about how every FirstHealth campus became tobacco-free in July 2004. After discussing the preparation and communication leading up and following the adoption of the policy and programs designed to assist tobacco-using employees, she also addressed the ongoing challenge of compliance.

Community Health Services coordinator Debbie Olivero discussed the evolution and creation of FirstFit, FirstHealth’s employee wellness program, which took the momentum of the tobacco-free initiative and expanded it to other healthy environments. Much of Olivero’s presentation focused on the healthy eating program that led to Moore Regional’s designation as an NCPP Red Apple hospital for creating a healthy food environment and the changes to employee cafeteria pricing, which lowered the cost of healthy foods.

Jeff Casey, FirstHealth’s vice president for finance, attended the site visit as a senior-level representative from the FirstFit committee and addressed questions about the finances related to lowering the costs of healthier foods.

In the final presentation, Community Health Policy Director Roxanne Leopper talked about how FirstHealth expanded the healthy environments programming beyond its campuses by involving area employers in employee health initiatives called MooreFit and HokeFit.

The group’s campus tour included a visit to the Moore Regional cafeteria to show the prominent placement of healthy foods, as compared to less-healthy items, and then to the Center for Health & Fitness-Pinehurst, where Director John Caliri showed the group around the facility and talked about FirstHealth’s Employee Health Improvement Program (EHIP).

During his presentation, Caliri pointed out that EHIP has provided more than $1.2 million in bonus incentives to employees meeting personal wellness goals since the program began in 2008. He also noted that smoking cessation is now (as of last year) included among those goals.

After the site visit, Melva Fager Okun, DrPH, NCPP’s senior program manager, sent the following note to FirstHealth Community Health leadership:

“Thank you so much for the wonderful presentation of your work and the tour you provided for the representatives from South Carolina hospitals, staff from the South Carolina Hospital Association and a representative from the New York City Health Department. People were so impressed and took furious notes. As someone said, ‘We are doing many good things at my hospital, but I’m walking away with 20 new ideas I would like to implement.’

“NCPP, in partnership with the South Carolina Hospital Association, is working with all South Carolina hospitals on employee wellness based on our experience with North Carolina hospitals. It is a three-year grant. I will bring many ideas to them and hope to bring back many exciting things they are doing in their hospitals.”

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