How should Rowan fight obesity? Hospital wants your ideas

SALISBURY — Let the brainstorming begin.

About 20 community leaders signed on to a Novant Health website Friday morning to share ideas for improving family health in Rowan County and beyond.


Officials at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, where the group gathered, hope hundreds more area residents will go to NovantHealth.org/ideas and join the effort.

The session was part of Novant Health’s kickoff for Bright Ideas in Women’s Wellness, an online crowdsourcing platform for sharing innovative ideas. The hospital group is using the platform as a new approach to solving health-care issues facing women and their families.

Their No. 1 target is obesity — a problem that, on average, threatens to keep today’s children from living as long as their parents.

Partnering with the Center for Innovation, Novant is trying to figure out how the community can address obesity together.

“An idea is a powerful thing,” said Dari Caldwell, president of Novant Health Rowan Medical Center. “We believe there is a way for everyone in our community to share ideas about how to improve the health of our residents.”

Caldwell said patients look at issues differently from hospital officials, and hearing their perspective is essential.

“We believe it’s possible, by listening to the voice of our customers and our community, to produce an idea that could change how we approach the most challenging health concerns in our community,”

To do that, she said, the hospital needs the community’s engagement.

The hospital invited 150 people to the breakfast meeting; only 20 accepted. But participants were enthusiastic about the new approach.

Chamber of Commerce President Elaine Spalding said after the session that the online innovation platform was a “great way to reach out to busy people for input.”

Kyna Grubb, executive director of Rowan Helping Ministries, said she sees the link between good health and people’s ability to hold down a job and keep their housing situation stable.

“Just talking about how to solve the problems and generating ideas puts us on a path to success,” Grubb said. Being part of a collaborative process could help the community learn how to solve other big problems together, she said.

Mayor Paul Woodson said obesity has become a crisis, and he blamed that on the fact that people spend so much time on computers and videogames. He put on the pedometer given to him at the meeting to measure his activity for the rest of the day. By 5 p.m., he had taken 2,300 steps.

Novant Health Forsyth Medical was first to try the new platform, and more than 420 individuals participated, submitting 208 ideas. Novant chose six suggestions to pilot test in the Forsyth community, ranging from a seminar on exercise-friendly hair care and hair styles for black women to an appeal to faith communities to develop community garden space.

Caldwell said she volunteered the Salisbury hospital to launch the program next. It’s the perfect size for trying new things, she said — not so big that it’s overwhelming nor so small that it lacks services.

The challenge is being conducted across the Novant Health system in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. The platform aims to unite and energize communities to develop solutions to challenge questions and put the most innovative ideas into action.

The first challenge question is: “What can families do to support each other, manage their weight together and lead healthy lives?”

The goal at the end of the four-week challenge is a collection of ready-to-pilot ideas, according to Matthew Gymer, corporate director of innovation of Novant Health, quoted in a Novant press release. “Our platform aims to unite health-care providers, policy makers, educators, businesses, service organizations and members of our community to solve large-scale community health problems,” Gymer said.

Area residents can interact with the site in several ways: post an idea, comment on an idea, vote up or down on an idea. Experts from all economic sectors of the community also participate by completing reviews to help move the most popular ideas to the top.

The current challenge will be active through Oct. 11.

To access the website, go to NovantHealth.org/ideas.

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