As I was navigating my way through my master’s program (what seems like eons ago) and worked diligently to learn and apply the principles of kinesiology and health promotion, I kept having a recurring dream…to this day, I still think about it. It may not be “the answer”, but I think it could serve us (society and communities) “well”. You’ll see my point as you read on. 🙂

A cooperative wellness institute is something I believe would be an innovative approach to promoting health and preventing disease. What is cooperative wellness? In short it is an organization in which a group of professionals unites to assess and address the wellness needs of a community’s citizens in a democratically controlled enterprise.

If we examine our communities in Sheridan County, we discover that – for a smallish county – we have A.M.A.Z.I.N.G “wellness oriented” resources. A few quick examples: The Kula Space, Mukta Yoga, Journeys, Tailored Nutrition, the Y, Tongue River Valley Community Center, Massage therapists, physical therapists, K-Life, mental health professionals, “financial fitness” advisors, Johnson County Family YMCA, progressive physicians/medical professionals interested in and advocates for integrative and complementary medicine…and these are just a hand full of the available resources (by no means is this an exhaustive or comprehensive list).

Let’s take a moment to just think…ponder the possibilities if scattered resources such as these were housed under the same roof (yes, a rather large roof). Think of the accomplishments, the discoveries, the impact, the changes to individual lives…

Yes, establishing a Cooperative Wellness Institute would take time, money, space, more time, probably some tears and potentially a few choice words ;), and above all else – passion, drive and commitment to excellence. That being said, I think it could be done…the how’s and why’s of it have not become apparent to me, but perhaps some of you out there have thought of a similar idea. What is apparent to me as a result of my 13+ years as a health and fitness professional, educator, and personal trainer? In some ways, we do not have “healthcare”; we have “disease management”. That being said, there may be a way to have both coexist and still promote the greater goal – improving the quality of life for citizens through “well-care” and thoughtful strategies to promote sustainable behavior change.

The hard truth – there’s always going to be disease; we likely cannot eradicate every possible ailment…but we can do something to shift the paradigm, to change the strategy to focus on preventable diseases – those attributed to lifestyle choices and behaviors.

As I research and learn more each year, I can’t help but think that what this country suffers from is not an obesity epidemic but rather an epidemic of a lack of physical activity and poor nutrition. These are two factors considered to be “modifiable” and “controllable”. This problem continues to grow and fester…when does it stop? Or change?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I’m convinced of one thing – harnessing the collective talents of local area health professionals could potentially create the energy needed to alter the landscape of “disease management” to one reflective of “comprehensive holistic well-care”.

One concern that speaks to the financial aspects is wellness isn’t a money maker; it’s a money saver. The profitability isn’t of an immediate nature; however, if we define profit in terms of enhancing individuals’ quality of life, the value increases ten-fold (if not more).

Thoughts to ponder…

Meet you at the Well. 🙂

Erin Nitschke

Passionate wife, mother, college educator, writer, blogger, and health and fitness professional.


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