Wright State Center gives free wellness screenings
- Published: May 15, 2008
The road to wellness of mind, body and spirit should start at home, one that Wright State Family Health Center practitioners have begun to call a “medical home.” Forget trying to treat the belly ache separate from the cough and the anxiety, using different specialists for each problem and never having them confer with each other. For family physician Cynthia Olsen and clinical psychologist Rose Mary Shaw, achieving health for the whole person requires an integrated approach to early detection and a high level of patient awareness about what it means to be well.
To that end, the Wright State clinic will host a Whole Person Wellness Fair with free health screenings the last two weeks of May at the facility on Xenia Avenue at Herman Street. The kick-off event will be Thursday, May 22, beginning at 10 a.m. and will feature a lecture on “Minding our minds as we mend our bodies” at noon and again in the early evening. Brief massages will be provided as well as healthy snack samples and information packets on emotional fitness for the aging, diabetic care, stress management, caregiver wellness, cancer prevention and other health tips.
Following the kick-off, Wright State clinicians will offer free physical and mental health screenings on Tuesdays and Thursdays, May 22, 27 and 29. The screenings are confidential and will include not only routine blood pressure checks but also testing for geriatric mental status, mood and post-trauma screens and caregiver stress screens.
The idea behind the health screens is to generate a report on the overall mental and physical health for each patient to use in guiding their own healthcare management, Shaw said. They can then follow up on any concerns with a health provider in the clinic or elsewhere. Those interested in a free screening are asked to call the clinic at 767-7369 to make an appointment.
The event takes place during the National Health Awareness Month of May and aims to promote a holistic approach to health and healthcare management. “We’re doing healthcare diagnosis with a focus on early identification of mental health needs and working toward improving overall health and resilience,” Shaw said.
The concept of having a medical home is not new, according to Olsen, who likens it to the generalist, or primary care physician, who knew your health history and your whole family and made house calls in the 1950s. But the fragmentation of healthcare that occurred in the 70s when funding from the National Institute of Health and other sources funneled research dollars toward specialty fields disabled the practice of caring for a patient’s overall well-being, she said.
Getting back to that more holistic practice through healthcare reform has been slow but sure. For Shaw it began with her training as a counselor in the 1980s, using professional jargon such as “the wellness wheel.”
“Now integrative medicine is becoming common speak, and we’re trying to make it common practice,” Shaw said.
Practically, integration at the Wright State clinic will involve a close relationship between the physicians and the psychologist. The team of four physicians share information with the patient’s other doctors, which allows for a complementary set of treatments to help the patient as a whole, Shaw said. For example, if a patient presents with chronic diabetes, the patient can authorize release of records between the physician and the psychologist, who can address diet and time management issues as well as depression, which is common among diabetes patients, Shaw said. Together, the behavior health specialist’s methods should complement the patient’s medication and insulin management for overall better health.
Mental well-being builds emotional hardiness and resilience, according to research Shaw has collected. It is resilience, learned through therapeutic means, which has been shown to improve health and longevity.
“It is through a reexamination of the habitual thoughts that govern our behaviors that we can begin to change the behaviors that affect our health,” Shaw said. “And the beauty here is that if there’s a patient with, for example, depression, we can deal with it through medical management and mental health therapy.”
Shaw, who has lived in Yellow Springs for 15 years, became keenly interested in the mind-body connection as an increasing number of patients came to her seeking therapy for depression and anxiety. Through doctoral research in neuropsychology she came to understand more about the physiology behind an individual’s psychological problems. She also studied four years of Ayurvedic medicine, integral yoga and traditional medicine in Central Mexico, Egypt and India and respects both the roots of natural medicine and the strides Western medicine has made.
“Psychology in the past 20 years has moved away from the person who just treats your mind to treating the mind-body,” she said.
A lot about a person’s daily thought pattern affects his or her health, she believes.
“Treating dis-ease by dealing with the stress early before it becomes disease is a way to improve the quality of an individual’s life and help them learn, grow and understand their mind, body and spirit,” Shaw said. “It’s about improving lifestyle management to promote wellness.”
Olsen has been with the Wright State Physicians for nearly 20 years and is currently the director of clinical operations and a full professor of both family and geriatric medicine at Wright State University. She depends on being able to interact with the emotional support system of her patients, including family members, neighbors and friends, who will be directly involved in helping the patient back to health. Olsen also finds having a close connection to the patient’s psychologist is also a useful way of getting more information about the patient’s background and lifestyle, which the two practitioners “can talk about and use to bolster the support of that individual to work them back toward health,” she said.
Traditional modes of healthcare, otherwise known as alternative healthcare practices, are integral to getting a patient back to health or even maintaining health, both Shaw and Olsen agreed. Both practice yoga, and will recommend and refer patients who can benefit from particular types of treatment, often from local providers.
“With chronic pain, studies have shown that in some cases meditation, yoga and massage work better than anything we could do,” Olsen said. “We recognize those things are important to an individual’s well-being.”
For Shaw, integration means looking at all aspects of a person’s health and all forms of healthcare available to treat the underlying, root cause of the problem. And it is about improving one’s lifestyle to promote wellness.
“We want to remove the barriers that are holding you back from what you can potentially be — from reaching your full potential.”