Changing your health may seem overwhelming, but it can start with taking one small step in the right direction. Two Shawnee Mission Health chaplains are taking the CREATION Health principles into local communities to show that small changes can have a big impact.
Kathi Jo Williams, SMH chaplain and Community Outreach coordinator for CREATION Health, and Estrella Dominguez, SMH chaplain, bring this Bible-based wellness system to churches and non-profit organizations in the Kansas City area.
The program focuses on eight components of whole-person wellness: choice, rest, environment, activity, trust, interpersonal relationships, outlook and nutrition. Making a few small adjustments in these areas can lead to a happier, fuller life and prevent more serious health issues from developing, Williams said.
“We know eight out of the 10 major diseases that are affecting us are directly related to lifestyle choices,” Williams said. “So the hospital is a turnstile. They come, they leave, they come back. They’re dealing with the same things over and over again. What I love about CREATION Health is it gives us an opportunity to go where they live and to say, ‘Listen, it doesn’t have to be this way.’”
Williams has taught CREATION Health in 36 churches in the greater Kansas City area. She is also bringing the program to local schools and non-profit organizations, such as the Maranatha Christian Academy in Johnson County, Kansas and Young Women on the Move, an after-school program for teenage girls.
Dominguez translated the program materials into Spanish to bring CREATION Health to the local Spanish-speaking community and churches.
“I fell in love with the program when I started living the program in my life with my family,” Dominguez said. “Then I saw the opportunity to take this program to the Spanish community in this area.
Dominguez and Williams teach the CREATION Health principles by encouraging seminar participants to move toward living a healthier lifestyle by making small, practical changes.
“I know it’s hard, but I teach them we can do it one step at a time,” Dominguez said. “I encourage them to take one aspect of their life that they want to change.”
For example, simple steps participants are asked to take include drinking more water daily for nutritional benefits, making regular phone calls to old friends to build interpersonal relationships and setting goals to make intentional choices.
After participants study each principle, they break into small groups and meet monthly to hold one another accountable and share tips for living a healthier lifestyle. The real learning happens in the small groups because participants are more willing to share their struggles and successes.
“When you’re in a small group, it’s easy to open up,” Dominguez said. “When you are in a big group, sometimes people are shy. They don’t want to share. But when they commit with people who have things in common with them, it’s easy for them to open up to support each other.”
As a result of the program, participants have experienced dramatic changes in their health.
During one of the seminars, Dominguez met a participant with extremely high blood pressure. He had been struggling to control it with medication for months, but nothing had worked. A month later, the man told Dominguez that after adopting the CREATION Health principles, his blood pressure dropped to a normal level and he had lost weight.
After completing the program, one participant told Williams about how she had shocked her doctor, thanks to the CREATION Health program. She had sickle cell anemia and had struggled to remain healthy for years, but after adopting the principles, her doctor noticed a change.
“She went back to her doctor, and the doctor said to her, ‘What have you been doing? Something’s very different. Your numbers are very different,’” Williams recalled. “Her doctor was just thrilled.”
For these and other participants, it all began with simple changes rather than a complete lifestyle overhaul.
“CREATION Health is not about perfection, and it’s not about doing everything all at once,” Williams said. “But we know if you will do something, that one little something will lead to doing something else.”
To learn more about CREATION Health, visit ShawneeMission.org/creationhealth.
This article was written by Emily Becherer, a writer for Shawnee Mission Health. It was also published in the November 2014 print edition of OUTLOOK.