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Partnership Aims To Expand Wellness Program To Low Income Berkshire Residents

Lucas Willard

Wednesday at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Berkshire Health Systems announced a new partnership with the Canyon Ranch Institute that will bring the Institute’s nationally recognized Life Enhancement Program to medically underserved and low-income individuals.

Dr. Richard Carmona, President of the Canyon Ranch Institute Board of Directors and the 17th Surgeon General of the United States, said prevention needs to be the new focus of healthcare providers.

"During all the time I was Surgeon General...the most important part of my portfolio was prevention," said Carmona. "We have a health system that really is the most advanced in the world with the best science but delivered in the most inefficient and sometimes ineffective way."

Carmona said that 18 percent the nation’s GDP is spent on healthcare, and three-quarters of those dollars are spent on preventable, chronic illnesses.

Jennifer Cabe, Executive Director of the Canyon Ranch Institute, said that lower-income individuals are in the most need of accessible and quality medical care.

The most common, preventable health problems among poor populations include heart disease, depression, and type-2 diabetes.

According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Berkshire County ranks 11th of the 14 counties in Massachusetts in measurements that determine the quality of a healthy life. The median income of Berkshire County residents is also roughly 25 percent lower than the statewide average.

Dr. Carmona said that the Canyon Ranch Institute will help Berkshire Health Systems put together its own program and train staff and physicians to engage the medically underserved including the low-income and uninsured.

“We're really appreciative of Berkshire Medical Center's willingness to partner with Canyon Ranch Institute and we'll bring our expertise as part of the team," said Carmona.

The 40-hour CRI Life Enhancement Program at BHS will involve 12 comprehensive group sessions on exercise, healthy cooking,   stress management, healthy grocery shopping, and will also include one-on-one consultations.

David Phelps, President and Chief Executive Officer of Berkshire Health Systems, said that his company always wanted to do more to expand care, but "finding a model that made sense that could be organized and efficiently delivered to our community just didn't exist."

"We are making a commitment of about $500,000 of value over the next couple of years to fund it and using their program we're going to get a quick start," said Phelps.

The Canyon Ranch Institute’s Life Enhancement Program is scheduled launch at Berkshire Health Systems in September of this year.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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