WE SPEND more money on healthcare in the United States than any other nation in the world, yet we rank 50th in life expectancy, according to the CIA World Factbook.
This is largely because the U.S. spends more than $2 trillion per year on healthcare, yet only devotes two to three percent of that figure to
prevent chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes, asthma, depression, or heart disease.
According to 17th Surgeon General of the United States Dr. Richard Carmona, focusing on prevention, integrative health, and health literacy are essential tools to reduce the frequency and severity of disease, improving quality of life, and decreasing healthcare costs.
Savannah is the site of a new solution for this health problem. Charles H. and Rosalie Morris provided funding to bring The Canyon Ranch Institute Life Enhancement Program (CRI LEP) to Savannah. The program is an evidence-based, multi-disciplinary program that introduces the best practices of the renowned destination health resort Canyon Ranch.
Since April 2014, three groups of participants have graduated from the CRI LEP, with a fourth group scheduled to start this summer. The goal is to help a total of 100 participants by the end of 2016. As of now, 52 participants have graduated.
“Integrative health means addressing the connections among mind, body, spirit, and emotion. Traditional western medicine tends to focus mainly on the body with less attention being paid to the mind, spirit, and emotions that also underpin health and well-being,” explains CRI’s senior director for health literacy and research Andrew Pleasant, Ph.D.
“Taking a truly integrative approach to health with a focus on health literacy inherently means health professionals need to know the entire person, not just their disease state.”
Canyon Ranch Institute is partnering with Curtis V. Cooper Primary Health Care, a primary and preventive healthcare center in Savannah, to offer the CRI LEP.
“CRI LEP is a valuable program. It’s great to have this in the Southeast,” says Albert Grandy, CEO of Curtis V. Cooper Primary Health Care. “It’s different than other wellness programs. This is the first scientific program where they track and have scientific outcomes.”
Canyon Ranch Institute trained a team of local health experts to help program participants live healthier, happier lives. The carefully selected Core Team includes expertise in integrative health, behavioral health, exercise, nutrition, and spirituality.
CRI LEP Core Team member and nurse practitioner Chris Ferrelle, N.P., has understood the integrative approach for a long time.
“It’s about balance. If you aren’t happy in an emotional aspect, it interferes with the balance of the rest of your life,” Ferrelle says. “For example, if your blood pressure is up, it isn’t always just about your diet. It can be about your stress levels and lack of sleep.”
Program participants and CRI LEP Core Team members meet weekly for twelve weeks. Participants have the option to attend the CRI LEP Walking Club, gardening sessions at the CRI Healthy Garden at Trustees’ Garden, yoga and fitness sessions, and other activities that help advance their overall well-being. They also experience four one-hour individual consultations with CRI LEP Core Team members in integrative health, nutrition, exercise, and behavioral health.
Maria Malcolm, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and CRI LEP Core Team member, helps program participants learn about stress management, how to prioritize in their life, how to get better sleep, and how to find a sense of purpose.
“It’s not like therapy; it’s much more like a type of coaching and assisting them with their game plan,” Malcolm says. “When I learned about the CRI LEP, I was excited because their concepts are very much how I conceptualize my own practice.”
Nutrition is another core element of the CRI LEP. Registered Dietitian, Kim Floyd explains that nutrition is not just about diet —it’s about choices.
“We discuss having a relationship with food. Some people never think about it in terms of a relationship,” says Floyd.
“We talk about time spent with food. Are we engaging in the process? Are we going to the store and selecting each item, preparing the food, being hands-on with our food? Or are we doing fast food drive-thrus so we don’t see the process? It’s much healthier when we’re hands-on and focused on healthy choices,” she says.
Floyd says culture plays a big role, especially in the South.
“In the South, our food is not the healthiest. So we take traditional Southern food and show just one or two adjustments to make the food a healthier choice,” she says.
The program also teaches exercise and meditation. A certified fitness instructor for 36 years, Sandy Haeger is a CRI LEP Core Team member.
“At each of the weekly meetings, we do fitness, including yoga, weightlifting, and aerobic activities. I lead the aerobic activities,” she says.
Palmer Steverson is a personal trainer and also a member of the CRI LEP Core Team.
“As a person, I’m very much into mind, body, spirit, emotion, as a whole approach to health. If you lack one, you can’t just make up for it in another area,” Steverson says. “You have to have a balance. When I heard about the program, I instantly liked it. It just makes sense.”
Jennifer Cabe, M.A., executive director and a board member for Canyon Ranch Institute, explains that the CRI LEP is about taking small, attainable steps, like consistently cutting out one sugary drink a week or not eating fried food as often and replacing these items with something healthier, like water or a salad.
“It adds up. That’s how people are successful,” Cabe says. “A small change can be really powerful. Small changes maintained over time have the power to change a person’s life—and a community—dramatically.”
Charles H. Morris says he hopes that the CRI LEP will continue to reach as many people in the Savannah community as possible.
“I hope that the Canyon Ranch Institute Life Enhancement Program will be an ongoing project in Savannah so that we live in a healthy, happier community,” Morris says.