I have sent the following letter to the president of the University of Missouri, Gary Forsee, following the announcement that the Health Connection, a great place for “seniors” to work out, is slated for the chopping block.
Dear President Forsee,
First, I do want to say that I understand to some degree, that in economic hard times, how difficult it must be to decide which programs to cut. Every program has some people who believe it serves a good purpose and that to close it is a disservice to someone. I do not envy your task. At the same time I want to share with you why I think closing the Health Connection (part of the program of the School of Health Professions) here in Columbia is not in the best interest of many people.
For healthy and able-bodied people, it may be easy to assume that all the folks exercising at the Health Connection can just go to ARC or one of the commercial gyms in town. From what I know, I do not think that gyms are necessarily interchangeable.
My husband and I have been regular, twice-a-week consumers of the benefits of the HC since July 2004. I am, at age 77, enjoying improved strength and better bones as a result of the time spent using the weight machines at the gym. But the HC is not just any gym. There are many who use the facility who are quite impaired in one way or another. The staff knows them, counsels them and helps them find safe ways to use the equipment and take part in the classes. The staff also checks blood pressure and heart rate if you wish, to make sure you are within safe parameters.
There are, at present, about 320 active members. The HC averages 1,300 visits to the gym each month and 600 participant days in the classes such as yoga, pilates, Tai Chi, etc. The students at Stephens College also have access to the HC — they represent another 300 visits a month.
The HC is such a great compliment to the University Hospitals and Clinics — a venue that helps people, as they age, stay well or improve their overall health. I was just reading yesterday that diabetes is the next epidemic. Exercise is such an important component in keeping diabetes at bay and in improving one's status if you have it. Furthermore (as has been said a million times), the baby boomers are soon going to be inundating heath care and we need to have appropriate options for helping them keep healthy.
I urge you to reconsider the decision to close the Health Connection. If “wellness” is indeed one of the missions of the University Hospitals and Clinics, then it is so important to find a way to keep this facility open.
Dear Reader, if you would also like to see this program saved please make your wishes known to President Forsee and Dr. John Oliver, dean, School of Health Professions, University of Missouri.