MASON CITY, Ia – When we need medicine for medical conditions, a doctor often has to prescribe them. Now, rather than more medication, North Iowa physicians are writing exercise on those prescription pads.
It’s “National Exercise is Medicine Month” and one organization is jump-starting a unique program to get folks moving.
“It provides a way for physicians to bridge the gap between the medical side of the world and the fitness side of the world for patients,” says Wellness Consultant Charles Green.
A new program by the Cerro Gordo County department of Public Health is bringing medicine and exercise closer together.
Kelli Huinker is their Health Promotions Officer and is spear-heading an effort to get providers not only to talk with their patients about exercising but, actually putting pen to paper and prescribing it.
“Those patients who get the exercise prescription can take it to a local fitness facility and redeem it for either discounted membership or some free personal training sessions,” says Huinker. She says, sometimes people need a little more motivation to lace up those tennis shoes and one wellness consultant agrees.
“When you provide incentives it has a funny way of making people want to do things,” says Green. And the patient isn’t the only one who will benefit from this program.
“Volume is always good, so the more patients you see come through at the end of the day becomes a good thing for both the patient, the physician, and the fitness professionals as well,” adds Green.
And it isn’t just for those who are overweight either.
“I prescribe it for diabetes, I would prescribe that in cardiology,” says Mercy Nurse Practitioner June Vogelman. That’s just to name a few. Vogelman also stresses exercise as the first step in preventative health.
“I think primary care, that’s our first line of defense,” she says.
Which is why Huinker believes insurance companies should pay attention.
“Our ultimate goal with this project is to get the insurance companies to begin to recognize physical activity and nutrition as big components of preventative health. I mean. you do that for multiple screenings, for heart disease and diabetes and this is just another way to manage the chronic conditions,” adds Huinker.
For now, this is a good place to start.
“As it gets going, I believe that it will pick up momentum, and when people start to see the benefits of the program, you’ll see more doctors not engaging in it, more of your general clients and patients being more interested in it and see what it can do for them,” says Green.
If you want information on participating physicians, contact your local public health agency. Finding a fitness facility is even easier; every gym in Cerro Gordo County is participating.