Holy Rosary’s ‘Healthy Lifestyles’ program celebrates 10 years

By Casey Jones Star Editor
Friday, July 27, 2018

Montana Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney got a wee bit off-topic at a ceremony celebrating 10 successful years of the diabetes prevention program at Holy Rosary Hospital on Tuesday.

Reminiscing about visiting relatives in Miles City as a kid, he recalled the swimming hole, the Penguin ice cream shop, the penny candy.

Then he remembered the occasion — a diabetes program anniversary celebration — and caught himself. “I guess I shouldn’t be talking about penny candy ... ,” he said, laughing along with a crowd of about 100 past and present program participants in the hospital’s cafeteria.

The fact is, Cooney said, diabetes remains a serious and worsening problem. He cited figures that show 30 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, up from 26 million in 2010.

“There’s more work to be done,” he said, noting that lifestyle changes centered on diet and exercise are in order.

Holy Rosary has had its nose to the diabetes grindstone for a decade now with it’s Healthy Lifestyles diabetes prevention classes.

“This is not a diet,” said Liane Vadheim, who co-manages the local program with Katie Patch. “This is a lifestyle change.”

And changing habits isn’t easy, Patch said. “Once you fall off the wagon, it’s hard to get back on.”

Healthy Lifestyles gives residents the tools they need to make lasting, healthy changes. It consists of a sixmonth core program that includes weekly meetings, goal-setting, one-on-ones with a personal lifestyle coach, and weekly guided exercise activities. Then there’s a sixmonth follow-up period with monthly group sessions, activities and assistance tracking your lifestyle goals.

It’s been highly successful, and spawned sub-groups in places like Baker, where participants join in via interactive telemedicine telecasts.

Vadheim told the crowd that in the 10-year history of the program, more than 1,000 area residents have taken part. Those 1,009 people have lost a combined 14,000 pounds — that’s seven tons of fat — and logged more than 2.2 million hours of physical activity.

There are plenty of success stories, like the ones told by Rhonda Shumway and Lori Kennell at Tuesday’s event.

Kennell said her life changed a year ago when she took a job at Holy Rosary, and she figured she might as well make some lifestyle changes, too.

She enrolled in Healthy Lifestyles last fall, and she said she met her goals, became active, and “really enjoyed it.”

At a minimum, participants are asked to commit to a 7 percent weight loss, and 150 minutes of physical activity per week.

Shumway said she had both high blood pressure, and high blood sugar levels, when she started the program.

She lost 80 pounds, gained it back, then lost 100 and kept it off. Along with the weight, she was able to shed her blood pressure medication and get her glucose levels under control.

“The support of the Healthy Lifestyles program is tremendous,” Shumway said.

The Miles City program is a success story within a success story. The Montana Department of Health started its Diabetes Prevention Program a decade ago, and Miles City was one of four pilot programs.

At the time, the popular way to promote lifestyle changes and reduce the risk of diabetes was with one-onone sessions involving counselors and coaches and health providers. It worked, but it was expensive.

Montana adapted the concept into a group model, dramatically cutting the cost. “Montana was really insightful in starting this,” Vadheim said.

The Montana model allows participants to benefit from “the power of the group,” Vadheim said, while still benefitting from professional expertise.

Members exchange ideas, support each other, and are accountable to each other, Vadheim said.

According to the Healthy Lifestyles website, it costs $150 to join the class, but Vadheim said there is a $50 discount for those who sign up before Aug. 20.

Call 406-233-3074 for more information and for program eligibility requirements.