Ep. 4: Influencing & Outreach - The Power of Healthy LeeLiving the Healthy Life Podcasts
Welcome to The Living the Healthy Life podcast, where we bring you the latest on health and wellness from the experts here at Lee Health. Discover what's happening at Lee Health and take away tips and inspiration to reach your ideal state of health.
Hello and welcome. My name is Brian Hubbard and I'm the manager for marketing and brand management at Lee Health. With me as our cohost Carrie Bloemers, who is a registered dietician as well as the Director of Education and Navigation at the Healthy Life Center at Lee Health Coconut Point. Good morning Carrie.
Good morning. We're diving into community health today and general Lee County Health and how Lee Health is engaged and being led by our community affairs department.
If you want to thank everyone for joining us today. We're very excited to welcome our specialist. Stephanie Wardein is the System Director for Community Affairs. Stephanie oversees a wide variety of things at Lee Health. She's here today to talk about Healthy Lee, it's mission to influence healthy lifestyle in Lee County, as well as a bunch of other things. So welcome Stephanie and good morning.
Thank you. Good morning.
Good to see you. It's Friday morning. We're excited to have you, so let's dive right in. The first thing we always like to know is a little inside information about our guests, because that sort of helps us understand where that passion comes from, how it influences the way you live and how the way you work. So if you don't mind, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Very good. Yeah. So come from a very large family, German and Irish descent, so we know how to have a good time and we're organized in our approach.
Yes, no, that sounds about right.
My own personal, so my immediate family, my husband and I have six children.
Six children. And we have been involved in health and wellness and activity and volunteerism from the very beginning. So from there, I would say with the insider baseball, I came away with an aha moment maybe 10 years ago with my own extended family. It appears, we didn't realize it until recently, there's heart disease in our family that was unaddressed, undiagnosed and decades long where you die of old age and there's not a lot of questioning our inquiry into that. And what we're learning is that the women in our family have significant-
Risk factors that are genetic.
And we have to work very closely with our physicians and-
Just kind of keep on top of it. So getting involved and getting ahead of it when you're growing your own family is quite the priority.
So that's a daily thing you live with.
That's something that you have your attention on every day. And with your children I guess, six children. You were talking about scheduling, I'm guessing you have to not only schedule their lives probably, but schedule health related things like you said, activity, exercise, diet, all that kind of stuff. Is that true?
Yeah. Absolutely. We run a pretty tight ship all the way down to screen time, right?
That's a significant driver as well.
Yeah. A couple episodes ago, we dived into screen time a little bit with Dr. Drago, one of our pediatricians-
And that plays a role in healthy lifestyles with the limitations. Is it going to inhibit that physical activity? And you talk about heart health and we all have to stay active.
So you learned all these things and you live all these things and you bring that. When you said that aha moment, that was like, "Oh, I know so much about this. I want to get this out." Or how did that kind of continue-
I don't know if it was I know so much about this. It was a holy moly, we got to figure this out-
Understanding that you don't know all of the things.
Gotcha. That makes sense.
Yeah. And then it was a different journey coming to Lee Health. I'm surprised this coming December will be 10 years.
10 years. Okay. Congrats.
It was a lifetime ago. Very different role. And the department had a very different dynamic as well.
So we've seen a lot of growth and my coming into that piece, I think it was the German organizational piece of me that helped make that path forward. So excited to be here today and really dig into a lot about what we have learned both as a family, but also in the community and how community partnerships come together to support that.
That makes sense. I mentioned in the intro Healthy Lee, so it's a good segue. So I think a lot of us have seen that name, have heard that name. It's a catchy name. Can you tell us what is Healthy Lee? What is it and what is its mission?
Healthy Lee started under a different name many moons ago.
It was founded in 2007 community collaborative.
It is community driven, it's cross sector. So we have probably 20 different areas throughout the community where the intention is to improve the health status of our community. And they do that through the promotion and the creation of community impact events, initiatives. You mentioned Dr. Drago. So through our pediatric footprint, both within Lee Health and other physician offices, the 5210 program. So that was grant funded many moons ago through the healthy league collaborative. And we can put more information on that I think on the podcast notes, right?
Add some information there. But Healthy Lee itself is driven, it's chaired and led by a 70 community member steering committee.
Chaired by a community CEO, currently Gary Griffin, who is the president and CEO of BNI Contracting.
And from there, there is a 20 member executive committee that meets quarterly to help drive the programming forward. And then there are two grassroots coalitions, one devoted to behavioral health with subgroups and one devoted to what we call healthy lifestyles. And there are four subgroups there. The work groups are devoted to the four priority areas. I know this is a lot. Four priority-
Areas coming out of the-
The community health needs assessment. And that assessment's conducted every three years. The first assessment was done in 2007. The steering committee prioritizes the needs and they determine what do we think we could impact? What do we have the ability to impact? And then drive collaboration to develop programming and partnership to kind of get after that.
This is a huge, huge project, huge undertaking it sounds like. Carrie, go ahead.
Yeah. As a dietician in the clinical background and my master's, I just love the data driven approach that Healthy Lee has taken, especially in recent years and with really coming back out after the pandemic. So, Brian, I think that's a whole nother show we bring Stephanie back for. Let's dive to that data. But just knowing that that organization's taking actual health conditions that are in our community, prioritizing those as the working subgroups. So we can really make an impact on community health in-
I think we've got a trilogy here, basically.
We may, yes.
I think we could easily. Well, I mean, it's just so impressive. Again, on the surface it's impressive. You've got all these throughout Lee County, businesses, volunteer, whatever it is, all these groups who have the mission to increase health and wellness for everybody as many, as many people as possible.
And when I say that word wellness, we talk a lot about it, it's part of our mission here to talk about health and wellness. It's a word we've heard all the time. It's a word, Carrie, I know you and I were trying to define a couple years ago on some projects. More people are realizing what it is and what it says. Stephanie, the way you work and the way that you sort of deal with it every day, how do you define wellness as far as Healthy Lee and how do you kind of live it, practice it in your own life and professionally as well I would guess.
So, I'm sure you know that's a pretty packed question.
I'm good at these big giant leading questions.
Give you time to-
I think wellness can take you down a number of different avenues. Generally speaking, right, we're talking about a state of being in good health. So I've had a few conversations recently where we're really trying to flush out what we mean by wellbeing. And the general consensus that I'm seeing is wellbeing different from wellness-
Oh, okay. Now this is good.
Is how you feel about your health, which I would argue is the antithesis of what we're trying to accomplish by improving the wellness, the status of being well.
So wellbeing is okay, right now I don't feel very good. So that's sort of my, you know what I'm saying? Or in general, I don't, or I feel this certain way about myself. That's wellbeing. And wellness is this community wide external thing. Am I close?
Wellness I would argue is the actual state of your human body being in good health.
So your doctor would check the box, "Yep, you're good."
Or you're stressed, right?
Or you're anxious and now your blood pressure's getting high or you're not sleeping well at night.
So those are like wellness based-
Things we can address with some of our behaviors.
Whereas wellbeing oftentimes is how you feel.
More subjective. "I feel fine," while your doctor's concerned about-
Well your levels aren't fine. Okay.
Your blood sugar's a little high.
No, that's a great distinction to make.
And I'm glad that I'm ignorant in that so that you can explain it. No, that's good.
Well, and there's different drivers of wellness. So for Healthy Lee and certainly for Lee Health, we focus on social determinants of health. Those are economic drivers, right? Environmental drivers, access to healthy food, education-
Making those basic needs.
Right. Jobs, employment, income, all of it is very complex.
And currently we're in communication at the state level exploring some initiatives through Healthy Lee where there is a statewide effort to impact, they're calling it root cause of poverty.
And when you look at the root causes of poverty, you're looking at social determinants of health. So it is one and the same. So how can we take the resources and the knowledge, the data of what we know, the programs and the resources that we have available to us and drive that into the community to get after some of those big, I mean, how do you eat an elephant?
Tear it apart.
And it sounds like that's one of the things that excites you right now about Healthy Lee. What other things can you tease that are coming out of the pipeline as it's reorganized a bit?
Yeah. There's so much.
Yeah. Just pick one. Let me geek out with you.
We'll do a full list on the site for sure. That's right. No, this is great. This is-
It is a lot.
There's a lot entailed in this.
It's very complex. It's been around for a very long time. It has a proven track record, nationally recognized a number of years ago through America's Essential Hospitals for its work in the community.
There's a lot of significant history. So moving forward, I think what I'm most excited about is you mentioned data drives you, right? So why do we need to wait three years to know whether or not we're moving the needle?
Right. You want to know immediate trends. You want to know what you can do. I mean, you want to look forward-
I want to know-
But you want it today.
What we can know.
Yeah. That makes sense.
What can we get our fingers on? What are some of the things, even if they might not be statistically significant, but could be boots on the ground drivers for behavior.
Right? We could drive all sorts of, well, if there were dollars to support all the things that everyone would love to do.
Right? You drive all of that investment.
At the end of the day, you're dealing with human behavior and we know how we feel at the end of the day on a Tuesday. Right? And we know the things and we have access to the things. So getting at that human behavior is significant. So we have through the leadership of the steering committee, very challenging to convene the steering committee amid a pandemic. Virtual platform-
I would imagine.
Historically it was a half day seminar style in person at sort of Southwestern. So virtual's very different. We know we don't have the attention span for a half a day virtual anyway.
So they gave the blessing and the recommendation to pursue their creation of what we're calling a metrics committee. And our chair, Gary Griffin, has approached, or did approach I suppose, over the summer, John Talmidge, who is our Lee County Director for Economic Development-
To chair the metrics committee. We were overjoyed when he agreed. And so we've done a lot of behind the scenes work. There's going to be a data dictionary so that we can, again, begin from definitions. What do we mean by the things that are in motion. And then creating a subgroup, this committee of steering committee members, but also others. So we know your metrics person or your data person at your organization, isn't the CEO, right? So tasking that out and better leveraging community resources. We understand proprietary data, certainly from the Lee Health perspective, patient data. We need to protect those assets and that information, but there are things that can be shared and it's literally never been done before in a collective approach to developing a data collective and bringing it all the way down to the census track level. Currently we stop at the zip code level, but getting into those neighborhoods, we can get at behaviors and trending and better focus our outreach efforts.
That's amazing. So you're talking about you're collecting all this data. You're learning about individual communities. You're learning about specific behaviors in neighborhoods, maybe at the street level. You're learning what people have access to, what they don't have access to, trends, the problems they're facing. And once you collect all that data, then you come up with health and wellness solutions, behavioral health, whatever it may be, to help improve the community. I kind of tried to summarize it there. Was that close?
Yes. I would qualify we don't yet have all of the data pieces.
We're still in the exploration phase. The flip side of that coin is also to synthesize and create a consortium of resources.
Like United with 211.
Right? So if we have a huge gap in a particular area, maybe it's downtown by the river, it could be anywhere. We could then develop literally a visual map of where the needs are and populate where the resources are-
To visually quickly see. Oh my goodness, we're so excited. And then I would add the third prong in that process, which will come much later, is engagement of the actual community members.
How do you get them interested? And that's kind of where I was leading my next question. Community affairs, outreach, how do you get them engaged? What programs and things do you have to help them sort of understand? You get to know them, I'm guessing? You have people out in the community. How all does that work?
Yeah, it's multifaceted, right? So we have two, three buckets of relationships. So community affairs as the liaison to community organizations at the local level. There are partnerships for education and awareness like the American Heart Association, right?
Some are larger. Some are smaller. We have grassroots partnership with an organization, a very small nonprofit who has been steadfast in our community and a leader countywide, perhaps regionally. They struggle. They're so small they don't even have computers. So it's a very customized approach to partnership. It is certainly not one size fits all. There are hundreds of community organizations that we partner with at varying levels, whether it's a conference we're bringing in speakers or tabling, bringing in mental health resources or nutritionist, right? There is a tremendous number of options according to the event itself and the aims of that particular partnership. So it could take the form of specific events-
Health fairs, crosses into business development, economic development, chamber memberships. Every chamber is different. We belong to many.
Many, many. But then from there, leadership opportunities and then leveraging all of that into outreach. How do we get the word out? How do you get the message out? How do you develop it in a way to where Lee Health isn't doing all of the things because we know we cannot.
Exactly. Now you guys obviously have done a lot of events and things you're describing, conferences, all those things. What's your general sense of how the community usually responds to that? I'm assuming they're very engaged and interested. What's sort of the feedback that you've gotten from some of these things?
It's very positive. I think that there's a safe environment in sharing critical feedback, right? If there's edits or adjustments, or we're always learning, we don't shy away from that. We certainly want to always be improving. And then we're always learning. So what we think we know about a community or a neighborhood or whatever that might be, it might be changing as we speak. Right. So engaging at that level to make sure you don't want to helicopter in and assume that you know all the things.
That is an excellent point. Yeah. You have to listen, you have to meet them where they are as we say sometimes.
So you have to listen to what their concerns are-
And what they need.
And go from there. Exactly.
It might be totally different. It may be something that can't be measured.
But can be solved.
Now, speaking of that, we're all in the middle still of the pandemic, how is that if at all affected sort of this outreach? I know a lot of places have gone virtual. Carrie, you and I have talked before about virtual events, which we've done very well with and everyone's responded. Everyone seems to understand what we're up against and what we've dealt with. Has that been a factor in anything you guys have done or you sort of, I mean, I know it's been a factor.
No, it's been fine.
COVID left our community alone.
How have you guys dealt with that?
How do you do community when you can't-
That's my question. There you go.
Community. So I would say, I think we've all experienced phases of COVID. We have seasons of life. I think looking back, we have seasons of COVID.
They have names now. They have names, right. And those are very defined calendar months that we were a little consumed with, right? So from the community affairs perspective, I'll tell you the first 90 days of the pandemic, I think for everyone was very different. We didn't know what could be done, right? It took time to determine we can take this programming and transition online. We saw engagement increasing 1000% with some of the programming that we had in the community.
For example, LARC, The Association for Remarkable Citizens, is a nonprofit Midtown area and the programming that we had, it was wellness programming for nutrition and learning how to read labels and cook and take care of a kitchen. Right? And how to use the things. It was a simplified version of what we normally produce. They had, I think it was a 6000% increase-
In engagement from the in person pre COVID-
To the virtual, because everyone, regardless of where they were physically located, was able to access. And perhaps there was a little bit of what else are we going to do? Right? All of us were online a lot.
Yes. And that has a perk. There's been convenience to your point. And that's what we're seeing as well. And we'll be continuing virtual education. I think the whole world, we're going to have a mix of this hybrid form where when we can safely gather, we will. And there's definitely benefits to the connectedness and social part when you are all together, but to still deliver education and get it to where it really needs to go. All of us with full lives and busy schedules to be able to now prioritize that appointment from wherever you are.
That makes a lot of sense. So in a way, we've all, everybody has been able to turn a negative into a bit of a positive here a little bit. Because it's a virtual world, it's technical, it's modern times, we all know how all that works mostly. People may still need help logging in or whatever it may be. But it sounds like you guys have been able to take that and run with it. And now virtually you're connecting with them on a whole new level. So-
It's been pretty positive then.
Absolutely. Well, yeah. Well-
You know what I'm saying? It's positive in the way that-
What a growing pain.
So finding that lemonade, yes. But it has really developed into, I mean, I think it has legs now.
And I'm seeing it at multiple levels. So our health literacy outreach, that's transitioning into a digital health literacy, right? How to navigate your digital health because the transition to all things virtual forced technology-
Progress, right? So the first version of WebEx that we had is not the version that we have today.
We've gotten better.
We've learned how to improve our lighting, right? No, but the digital health literacy is a significant need because we know that the disparities that exist already with health will be exasperated by that. We are encouraged by the fact that our county, Lee County, is driving resources to identify and develop basically a gaps analysis in broadband connectivity. So what do we know about the ability to connect in high speed or not? And then from there, I think it was just last summer, perhaps July one, the Florida legislature developed an office of broadband. So stay tuned more to come. We fully expect there to be a lot more engagement in that area, especially when it comes down to community health and creating access.
And you circled back again to a basic need, and you wouldn't have otherwise thought of your broadband strength as a basic need for delivery of health care. However, now COVID changed everything and it is. We have telehealth, but can you access it?
And one step further, if you are in a remote environment for your employment, you need that connectivity to maintain-
To maintain productivity. Yeah.
It is significantly more important than it was.
There's a lot of stuff here. This is also fascinating. Because this is the key, the heart of what we try to do. Connecting with real people, real lives, helping as much as we can, listening, learning, it's all tangled up together. Whether it's Healthy Lee, whether it's community affairs, all the things that you're talking about. Like we said at the beginning, we want to, we're right at 25, 26 minutes here. So we'll end this particular episode, but we would love to have you back Stephanie, to talk about the specifics of some of these community needs, the community needs assessment. I think that would be fascinating.
To find out more about. Everyone can learn from that. Carrie, Stephanie, is there anything else that we have not mentioned that we want to talk about really quick?
I think thank you, Stephanie. Thank you for making us stretch our brains this morning and think-
Yeah, this is interesting.
A little bit further into the big box of what health and wellbeing encompasses and thinking about our community and where their needs that may be unmet and what we're going to see in the future. So exciting. Very exciting.
It is. Thank you so much for having me. I think that we've got a lot to look forward to.
There's a lot of really good positive initiatives going on at every level. So be more than happy to come back.
Absolutely. Stephanie, it's so good to see you as always. We thank you for your time.
A reminder to our listeners, you can reach out directly to the community affairs team. Leave the email address, please. Community affairs, all one word, communityaffairs@LeeHealth.org.
All right. You can also find more information about community affairs on our website, Leehealth.org, just search for community affairs. You can also pop the name Lee Health community affairs into Google to get you right to that page link as well. You'll find information about partnerships and resources as well as relevant blog articles. More information there are, what is it? We have some PDFs, past community benefit reports on the website. So all those things you can check out.
We also like to make sure you check out healthelite.com to take a look at what they're up to. You'll find all the descriptions and links in our podcast description. We hope you tune back in for upcoming episodes. We'll be interviewing experts around Lee Health, so you can learn more about what we do and how we strive every day to fulfill our mission to the community, to provide the best care close to home. Thanks for listening everyone and have a great day.