On a brilliant autumn day in 2006‚ Sue Cridland was preparing to take 12 Fulton County residents on a hike in the scenic Adirondacks. It’s one of the favorite parts of her job as director of community education for Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville.
Yet Cridland doesn’t work at Nathan Littauer; she runs the hospital’s popular HealthLink program in the Johnstown Mall.
Founded in 1988‚ HealthLink has relocated three times to become ever more accessible to Fulton County citizens‚ who turn to the wellness education and resource center for a myriad of services from blood-pressure checks and classes to answers to health-related questions from registered nurses such as Cridland.
“It’s pretty exciting that this program has existed this long and has really grown very nicely‚” she says. “I think we’re relatively unusual‚ certainly for the state. One of the biggest things to me is our hospital’s commitment to this concept.”
Nathan Littauer’s support for the center hasn’t wavered‚ and the result is a program that keeps people healthier‚ while also identifying those who should seek medical attention.
“Many times I tell our visitors‚ ‘You really need to talk to your doctor about this‚’ ” Cridland says.
Located in a mall storefront with a large classroom in the back‚ HealthLink boasts 50 feet of wall space covered with “all kinds of consumer-oriented resources set up by category‚ from nutrition to parenting to safety and injury prevention‚” Cridland explains. The Internet offers a powerful information resource today‚ she adds‚ but HealthLink staff screen all information for accuracy.
Initially‚ HealthLink offered classes in traditional subjects such as smoking cessation‚ stress management and child birth preparation‚ but the subjects “have certainly broadened‚” Cridland says.
Yet the center’s core mission remains the same – to make people aware of the values of pursuing health and wellness. Cridland remembers a recent hike; one of the participants was a woman who had recently lost her job.
“What she said to me as we neared the end of this hike in the woods was‚ ‘This was so good for me‚ because I had to stop thinking about the fact that I lost my job‚ because I had to pay attention to where I was putting my feet.’ She was practicing mindfulness‚ which is really one of the very best ways of helping manage stress‚” Cridland recalls. “That really crystallized our mission for me.”
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