When Felician Services Inc and SSM Health in southern Illinois recognized an epidemic of obesity and related diseases and complications, they responded with the creation of the Felician Wellness Center. Led by Jacy Keefe, exercise and wellness coordinator, this Felician-sponsored program represents a collaboration with SSM Health’s Good Samaritan Hospital in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, and St. Mary’s Hospital in Centralia, Illinois, and it is changing lives – helping people reverse chronic illness, get off of medications and improve their quality of life.
Keefe sees many clients who struggle with obesity, heart disease, limited mobility and diabetes – and she has been able to help many turn their lives around through the NexT (Nutrition and Exercise Training) program – an adult wellness program is hosted by the Centralia Recreation Complex and incorporates education, exercise and individualized training and support.
Each NExT session meets twice weekly for six weeks and incorporates guest speakers, such as physicians, dieticians and mental health professionals, to speak on topics like blood sugar control, healthy eating, anti-inflammatory diets, portion control and ideas for keeping active at home.
Participants are also given a free body composition scan, which measures weight, BMI, muscle mass, hydration, metabolism and fat. These scans are used to track a person’s progress in more tangible ways than just weight. “Some people might get discouraged if the number on the scale doesn’t go down,” said Keefe, “but then they see that they’ve turned fat into muscle mass and they recognize their progress.”
Keefe receives letters from former participants praising both the program and her leadership and support. One participant said, “The program itself is life-changing . . . This class gives me accountability and something to look forward to . . . without the program, I would not have lost 125 lbs.”
“All of these programs have been such a blessing,” said Keefe. “We see people all the time getting off of their medications, improving their mobility or range of motion or reversing heart disease or diabetes,” said Keefe. “It’s just the best part of my job.”