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Community Based Health

What is health? Merriam Webster dictionary has two main definitions.

  1. The condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit.
  2. A condition in which someone or something is thriving or doing well.

What is community?

  1. A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
  2. A feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.


How do we have a sound body, mind, and spirit?

The brain needs 3 things to thrive! First is stimulation. Humans are born with around 25% of the brain developed. The last part to develop is the frontal lobe which is responsible for reasoning. The greatest way to stimulate the frontal lobe is the cerebellum which receives the greatest input when we move our bodies. In other words, something as simple as walking and talking is healthier for the brain than watching a documentary on the couch. The next thing our brain needs is blood flow. Exercise does not have to involve training for the next Olympics, simply have a game night with friends. Last is proper nutrition, ensuring a balance of vitamins and minerals. Proper nutrition starts with fruits, high in vitamins, and vegetables, higher in minerals. Almost every “diet” recommends increasing intake of fruits and vegetables. Stick to the easy rule of eat the rainbow.

Does your community have fellowship and goals with health in mind?

Oklahoma City goes on a Diet

In 2007, Mayor Mick Cornett of Oklahoma City was experiencing personal health problems. Around that same time, his city, Oklahoma City was struggling with their own rankings in health. Cornett came up with a program that began with a website. He was putting his city on a diet! Billboards invited the residents of Oklahoma City to login and track their individual and community weight loss. This led to projects for making it easier to walk around by foot or bike! The city lost over 1 million pounds and is now extremely pedestrian-friendly. Northwest Arkansas has tons of events and trails, we just need to team up together!

The Roseto Effect

A local doctor of Roseto, Pennsylvania and Dr. Stewart Wolf, head of Medicine at the University of Oklahoma at the time, began a discussion about the unusually low rate of heart disease in the Roseto community in 1961. This discussion led Dr. Wolf to conduct decades of studies, comparing Roseto to nearby communities. The Roseto community had a diet no different than the American Standard, they smoked and drank too. The difference, their cohesive community and low stress lifestyle were the markers for their low incidence of heart disease, decided Wolf. They were very family based. For more about this phenomenon, I suggest reading Outliers by Malcom Gladwell.

The Rat Park

Lastly, there is something for us all to learn from the rat park study.  American psychologist, Dr. Alexander, noticed an issue with former addiction studies involving rats being placed in a cage, alone, and offered one bottle of water and another laced with heroin or cocaine, the rats would drink the drug-laced solution until they died from overdose.  Alexander was curious if it was the temptation of drugs or the social environment attributing to the outcomes.  So, he began a study where he placed rats among other rats, free to play and socialize with the same access to the two bottles.  However, Alexander’s rats chose plain water. Only intermittently, and not obsessively, choosing the drug-laced solution.  And Alexander’s rats never overdosed.  Already addicted rats would even ween themselves of the drugs.  Rats, like humans, are social animals.  The power of a social community was greater than the power of drugs.

northwest arkansas

These studies show us community is an essential foundation for health. Is there a person out there striving to live in a community burden with sickness and disease, where every individual must be selfish for their own survival? That sounds like a Mad Max movie in the making! Three things are continuously discussed, read and seen; recent opioid epidemic and over-medicated individuals, rise in psychological disorders, and disease taking numerous lives. Let’s discuss ways to grow together, rather than decay alone. Also, strive to pick one another up when we notice someone feeling down. Empower an individual, a group, a community, and represent America.