KINGSPORT – Living in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia carries rich and bountiful traditions of wonderful music, breathtaking scenery and abundant recreational opportunities.
But the region has long possessed traits that are not particularly healthy for people who live here – diets loaded with fat and calories being a prime example. Combine that with a sedentary lifestyle by many in the country who find their television or computer a sufficient source of activity, and it’s a recipe that produces potentially disastrous health consequences.
Wellmont Health System and six other prominent and civic-minded employers in the area recognize this is an unsustainable path. So they are banding together to help establish a new culture in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia focused on wellness and healthier living.
Introducing Wellmont LiveWell, a free community health transformation initiative that was unveiled Wednesday, July 10. It’s a collaborative effort to empower those who live and work in the region to commit to important habits such as regular exercise, healthy diets and maintaining proper blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
At a news conference Wednesday, leaders of Wellmont, Eastman Chemical Company, Food City, Alpha Natural Resources, Domtar Paper Company LLC, Electro-Mechanical Corporation and Strongwell showed their support for a region that embraces health. These visionary executives gathered at MeadowView Conference Resort & Convention Center to explain why their companies are supporting this vital partnership for the betterment of the region.
“Health care is changing quickly and in multiple ways,” said Denny DeNarvaez, Wellmont’s president and CEO. “We’re still assessing, frankly, how these changes will ultimately affect the health of our region and the rest of the nation.
“But one change should generate virtually unanimous support – the need to shift our efforts from only treating people when they are sick to helping them stay healthy every day. That ultimately is what LiveWell is all about, and we are fortunate to have forward-thinking business partners and their employees embrace this program.”
Participation is simple. Anyone who is interested can go to www.wellmont.org and make the LiveWell commitment to adopt substantive changes in his or her life that will result in short-term and long-term positive outcomes.
When someone joins Wellmont LiveWell, he or she completes a short registration process that includes the option to receive personalized information on a variety of health topics, such as ways to effectively address diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions. Participants also have the option of taking a free personal health assessment.
LiveWell also offers an extensive health library that contains information on virtually any health topic imaginable, as well as an online calendar of healthy local events occurring throughout the region.
Joining LiveWell is a logical extension of many companies’ philanthropic and progressive efforts in the region. Jim Rogers, Eastman’s chairman and CEO, said his company continues to build an award-winning health and wellness program focused on the health and well-being of employees and their families.
“We are pleased to join with others to help create a healthier region for all of us, now and for generations to come,” Rogers said. “Eastman believes it has a responsibility to help improve the health and vibrancy of the communities where our employees live and work. Together, with other businesses and communities, we can have a fundamental impact on our region.”
The region has hurdles to clear for a healthier status. A recent report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute showed most counties in Northeast Tennessee were in the middle of the pack or in the lower half in the state for health outcomes. Three Southwest Virginia counties ranked in the top five unhealthiest in the commonwealth, and many others did not fare well in the standings, either.
Kevin Crutchfield, Alpha’s chairman and CEO, understands the region’s challenges. His company was particularly motivated to fund the Alpha Natural Resources Center for Interventional Cardiology at Bristol Regional Medical Center because the incidence and death rates for cardiovascular disease in Appalachia are disproportionately higher than the rest of the country.
Studies indicated residents of Appalachia have a 15-20 percent greater chance of dying from heart disease than people who live elsewhere.
“We are eager to join our business partners in the region and others to develop innovative solutions to improve our region’s health status,” Crutchfield said. “These can include our funding initiatives for children and families, social services and important healthcare initiatives, such as our center at Bristol Regional. But we can also make a difference by educating our employees and their families to advance their health, which we also do through a variety of company wellness programs.”
Steve Smith, president and CEO of K-VA-T Food Stores, parent company of Food City, knows all about encouraging wellness. His company has been on the cutting edge by bringing the NuVal Nutritional Scoring System into the stores so customers can know whether the food in their carts will contribute to their health.
“It is important that healthy choices be easy choices because they are convenient, inexpensive and tasty,” Smith said. “It is also essential that individuals understand their health risks and the health content of their food. As the region’s largest grocery store chain, we have a responsibility to provide appropriate health and wellness options to our customers. We are proud to lend our expertise and opportunities to this cause.”
Regional business leaders gather for the announcement of Wellmont LiveWell. Pictured, left to right, are Steve Smith, K-VA-T Food Stores; Perry Stuckey, Eastman Chemical Company; Charlie Floyd, Domtar Paper Company LLC; Mitch Williams, Strongwell; Denny DeNarvaez, Wellmont Health System; Kevin Crutchfield, Alpha Natural Resources; Mike Stollings, Electro-Mechanical Corporation; and Todd Norris, Wellmont Health System.
Charlie Floyd, vice president and mill manager of Domtar Paper Company LLC and chairman of NETWORKS – Sullivan Partnership, speaks at Wednesday's news conference as, left to right, Denny DeNarvaez, Kevin Crutchfield and Perry Stuckey observe.