Wherever you stand on the ongoing healthcare debate, one thing almost everyone agrees on is that keeping people healthy is a far better option than treating them after they’ve become seriously ill with a preventable disease.
Helping fulfill The Brooklyn Hospital Center’s mission of “Keeping Brooklyn healthy.”, nutritionist Karen Congro, RD, CDN, founded and organized the Wellness for Life group, a monthly gathering focused on preventing illness and improving quality of life through exercise, awareness of current medical trends, and sound nutrition.
Now in its 14th year, Wellness for Life offers its members an exciting potpourri of resources and activities from aerobic exercise and healthy cooking tips to the latest news on potentially harmful drug interactions.
Though rarely publicized throughout the years, the group has grown bigger and bigger over time.
“The word’s gotten out that Wellness for Life is—first of all—a lot of fun,” said Ms. Congro. “A lot of our club members lead quiet, even isolated lives. Many have chronic illnesses. But the minute they reach the hospital auditorium they’re greeted by dozens of friends, some of them helping distribute our healthy meal sampler, some aerobic dancing along with the exercise video we have playing on the monitors, and some sharing strategies on nutrition or weight loss. It’s a high-energy community.”
That strong sense of community is at the center of the club’s success, because it encourages group members to come back month after month, and keep up with one another in between sessions.
“Staying healthy isn’t a one-shot proposition,” said Eva Pitrez, a club secretary and participant for six years. “Wellness requires a day-in day-out commitment, and the best way to keep that commitment is to have a community where members can keep track of and encourage one another, and enjoy learning together.”
This September Wellness for Life welcomed TBHC's own Dr. Gina Villani, Chief Oncologist in the Cancer Care Department, who lectured group members on the art and science of becoming an empowered healthcare consumer.
Dr. Villani encouraged audience members to take an active stance with their doctors and recommended they not be afraid to ask questions, either about their conditions or their doctor’s experience treating a particular condition.
“When it comes to other areas of our life—getting our car fixed, for instance—most of us don’t mind asking the hard questions,” said Dr. Villani, “But we’re reluctant to put those same questions to our physicians.”
According to Dr. Villani, groups like Wellness for Life go a long way toward helping people become more active healthcare consumers. “Club members learn something new every month, which makes them increasingly familiar with the language and concepts of modern medicine. This is exactly what’s needed to transform health care from a scary, daunting subject into an exciting one.”
The next Wellness for Life group meeting is Tuesday, October 6. Please contact Karen Congro, RD, CDN, for details. Email firstname.lastname@example.org  or call 718.250.6433.