Teaming Up for Mindfulness

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Teaming Up for Mindfulness
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By:  Sarah Sullivan, Program Director,Crim Fitness Foundation Mindfulness Initiative

Teaming Up For Mindfulness

When you think of Flint, do you picture a healthy, peaceful, resilient, compassionate community? While it is true we are still in the midst of a public health emergency—many residents still lack access to safe water and far too many are suffering from the aftermath of exposure to lead, violence and other traumas—it is also true that the Flint community today is coming together in relationship across traditional silos, with a new sense of collective purpose and resilience to support health and wellness, equity, and social justice… to re-imagine and bring to life Flint’s better future.

Countless organizations and individuals are working to align and support the incredible efforts of those on the front lines of this ongoing public health emergency—our local pediatricians, physicians, health care providers, educators, parents and youth.

There are many examples of innovative work being done to support education, nutrition, and physical activity to mitigate the impact of lead, such as universal preschool for all Flint children, increased access to healthy foods, better access to mental health support, and a city-wide Mindfulness Initiative. The Genesee County Medical Society (GCMS) works closely with local physicians to support and highlight examples of effective community, public health, and medical interventions to help mitigate the impact of lead poisoning and support resilience. The Crim Fitness Foundation has a long-term commitment to a Mindfulness Initiative for the community. This initiative was established to support Flint and Genesee County in an effort to develop the skills needed to manage stress and increase resilience in the face of the Flint Water Crisis.

On February 1, 2018, the GCMS hosted a Mindfulness in Medicine: Promoting Health, Well-being and Resilience workshop, bringing together more than 60 local physicians, medical residents, and health and wellness providers from across Flint and Genesee County to explore the ways that mindfulness supports health and wellness. Mindfulness has also been suggested as a key intervention that may mitigate that impact of lead exposure. Participants learned from leaders supporting mindfulness in Flint, Genesee County, and across the state of Michigan. The Crim Fitness Foundation co-sponsored this session and produced the expert faculty.

The evening was introduced and facilitated by Dr. Bobby Mukkamala, an otolaryngologist and board member for the American Medical Association, the Michigan State Medical Society, the Genesee County Medical Society, and the Crim Fitness Foundation. A definition of mindfulness was shared by presenter Dr. Anju Sawni: “Paying attention, in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, with unconditional love and curiosity, without judgment or analysis.” She explained how mindfulness practices help one shift from autopilot (mindlessness) into awareness (mindfulness). Dr. Anju Sawni is the Director of Adolescent Medicine at Hurley Children’s Hospital and Professor at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine.

Dr. Ruth Lerman (Medical Director for the Beaumont Center for Mindfulness, Director of Stress Reduction Programs, Physician Wellness and Professionalism, Assistant Professor at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, and Certified Teacher of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction), expanded on the definition of mindfulness shared by Dr. Sawni. She added that mindfulness is not having a blank mind, being happy all the time, being emotionless, withdrawing from life, or escaping from pain.

Dr. Lerman summarized results of her own research along with a summary of all current research indicating benefits of mindfulness practice for: cancer, hypertension, diabetes, psoriasis, HIV/ AIDS, chronic pain, substance abuse, anxiety, depression, insomnia, hot flashes, PTSD, relationships and stress in healthcare workers.

Dr. Barbara Wolf (Corporate Director of Behavioral Health Education and Physician Wellness, McLaren Health Care; Associate Professor, Family Medicine and Psychiatry Departments of Michigan State University’s Colleges of Human and Osteopathic Medicine) shared information about Mindful Practice, a program developed for physicians to increase well-being and decrease burnout at the University of Rochester Medical School. Participants in this program report improved personal well-being, including such factors as reduced burnout, improved mood, and positive changes in empathy, psycho-social beliefs, and indicators of patient-centered care, all of which relate to reductions in health care disparities and lower health care costs.

In my role as Director of the Crim Mindfulness Initiative at the Crim Fitness Foundation, I closed the evening sharing about the Crim’s programs. The Crim Fitness Foundation has evolved from an annual 10-mile road race to a foundation cultivating accessible, vibrant communities in Flint and Genesee County that encourage people to lead healthy lifestyles by integrating physical activity, healthy eating and mindfulness into their daily lives. The Crim is also lead agency for the Community Education Initiative, convening more than 60 partners to support the needs of the whole child and improve third-grade reading levels, attendance, and behavior through during and after-school programming in Flint Community Schools.

In 2016, the Crim launched a city-wide Mindfulness Initiative to support Flint and greater Genesee County resi­dents impacted by the Water Crisis to develop resilience, manage stress, and increase compassion through the daily practice of mindfulness at home, at school, and throughout the community.

Today, the Crim Mindfulness Initiative has impacted more than 18,297 youth and community members through training, events, and school and community programming. The Crim serves as the community convener and leader working to develop capacity and partnerships to attract and steward resources to support and implement the mindfulness initiative. An advisory board co-chaired by Dr. Bobby Mukkamala and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha provides leadership, guidance, and medical expertise to ensure the efficacy and impact of this work.

To learn more about each of the organizations and mindfulness programs described above, please visit: Center for Mindfulness at Beaumont in Royal Oak, MI, Center for Mindfulness at UMASS Medical School University of Rochester Mindful Practice If you are interested in contributing to a More Mindful and Resilient Flint, sign up for a quarterly newsletter to be updated about the Crim Mindfulness Initiative by emailing: mindfulness@crim.org. Donate to the Crim Mindfulness Initiative gcms.org | crim.org

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