Wellness and prevention information from the experts at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

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The value of living in a healthy community

by Courtney Jordan Baechler, MD, MS

We often spend time discussing healthy behaviors and ways to help you heal in our blog.  I want to take a different approach today and focus on the importance of healthy communities.

Although the exact percentage varies a little, studies show that something called “social determinants” account for nearly 80 percent of one’s health risk. Social determinants are group risk factors – such as income distribution, education, influence, and power – rather than individual factors – such as exercise or eating habits – that influence the risk of disease.

Knowing this, it makes me proud to live in the city of Minneapolis where leaders, governmental organizations and nonprofits work together to reduce social barriers to living a healthy life.

Just recently, I had the opportunity to sit among representatives of more than 40 non-profits who partner with the city to improve residents’ health. We celebrated Minneapolis’ accomplishment of being one of six communities across the country to win the Roadmaps to Health prize from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The award recognized that the Minneapolis health department has worked with partners, like my organization, Allina Health, to put in place programs and policies to address problems that disproportionately affect people with limited incomes and educations. Here are a few examples:

  • Programs that connect clinics and communities to prevent chronic disease.  I had the opportunity to work on this with many others. More than 50 years of research has shown the importance of strong social connections to healthy lives. We know feeling a sense of connection to your community is key. Empowering residents to live healthier lives, not only at their clinics but also in their neighborhoods, left me feeling so rewarded.
  • The Northside Achievement Zone, which gives North Minneapolis children and families the tools they need to move from “cradle to college to career.”  As I mentioned earlier, one of the most important social determinants of health is education.  All the cholesterol medication in the world is not a substitute for the impact education has on one’s health.
  • Biking programs which have led to Minneapolis being recognized as the most bikeable city in the country. This is truly fantastic but, as the mayor pointed out, it’s much more difficult to bike in North Minneapolis than it is around Lake of the Isles, just a few miles away.  Part of this is due to the environment (safe streets) and part of it is due to making bikes affordable and available to those on a fixed budget.  Nice Ride bike share, Midtown Bike Walk Center, and Venture North Bike Walk Coffee Shop have partnered together to help improve biking access in Minneapolis.

I am truly proud to live in Minneapolis and am so thankful for the leadership at the Minneapolis health department, which is helping transform communities.

Live well!

Courtney Jordan Baechler, MD, MS

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New art exhibitions at Abbott Northwestern Hospital

ArtofHealingFeb-MarParkerArt is powerful. It can nourish the mind, body and spirit, and it can support healing. That is the inspiration behind a bimonthly Art of Healing exhibit offered by the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

View the works of artists on exhibit during the months of February and March:

  • Gail Murton’s photography is on exhibit at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing Outpatient Clinic. Murton’s mindfulness photography allows presence of mind to see and appreciate the many nuances of life.
  • Stephen Parker’s mixed media art is on exhibit in the Wasie Building Tunnel, outside the LiveWell Fitness Center. After a heart attack, Parker learned that drawing and creating images could allow his heart and mind to work together for healing.

The Art of Healing Program provides arts-based wellness intervention and education, and supports a healing environment. For more information, call 612-863-9028.

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Acupuncture can provide relief to cancer patients

by Noah Frohlich LAc,DiplOM, MaOM

Since I joined the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing and Virginia Piper Cancer Institute teams in 2010, I have been privileged to work with a great group of health care professionals to help those with cancer who are going through chemotherapy and radiation.

Acupuncture is very successful in providing relief to those suffering from the side effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue and pain. Another benefit of acupuncture is it can help balance out emotions and lift spirits.  When I offer acupuncture, I also like to provide helpful information about diet and lifestyle modification, and acupressure points for nausea and pain. Here is a great article on how acupuncture can help with cancer.

If you or someone you know has cancer, we offer these services through the Penny George Institute at Unity Hospital and at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.

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Art as an act of healing

by Jayson King, RN, BS, NCTMB, HNB-BC

In 1985, Nancy Azara, a New York based artist, introduced me to the idea of “Art as an Act of Healing” at a workshop in Duluth.

At the time, I was the classic struggling artist living in Minneapolis – working part-time jobs to get by and support my art, trying to forge relationships with galleries, and creating art in a shared loft space in Northeast Minneapolis with a group called Art Attack.

Nancy’s idea – that art is an act of healing – filled an essential part of my art education. During late-night discussions with other students at art school, we decided art is created purely as an extension of the ego. Through Nancy’s week long intensive workshop, including daily guided meditations and circle discussions, it dawned on me that this wasn’t my ego speaking on the canvas, but it was an expression of my own healing journey.

Since that workshop, I’ve continued to look at all forms of art through this “Art as an Act of Healing” lens. What does the artist’s statement and expression tell me about their own healing journey? What can I learn about healing communities?

There are many examples that show how art serves healing and community:

  • a Somali immigrant whose work is a link to her culture of origin and a way to support herself
  • an artist who rediscovers her passion to paint after a cancer diagnosis
  • a recent exhibition of seminal work from the 1980s at the Walker Art Center which revealed how intensely AIDS has affected all our lives.

This holiday season, my family went to see a variety show featuring Kevin Kling with Dan Chouinard and the Brass Messengers at the Guthrie Theater. Through their graceful humor, stories and music, the artists reminded me once again of the power of art to mirror culture, overcome personal obstacles and differences, and exemplify hope and light.

Managing the Art of Healing program at the Penny George Institute allows me to come full circle with my life art experience. The Art of Healing program is designed to answer the question: “How can creative expression heal?”

Through inpatient art care, hospital-wide exhibitions and community outreach, the Art of Healing program can use art not only as a personal healing force but also as a bridge between clinically-based healing, the holistic nature of all healing, and healing of the greater community.

My invitation to you: the next time you see a piece of visual art, listen to a piece of music, or watch a play or film take a moment to witness it as an act of healing.