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“It’s all about staying healthy and preventing chronic diseases,” explains Nurse Advisor Catherine Harper Bunker, R.N., of MDI Hospital’s newest program, Healthy for Life!

The program, established with funding from a Maine Health Access Foundation (MeHAF) grant, will provide innovative services to Southwest Harbor, Tremont and outer island residents who are at risk of developing serious chronic health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.

The program is based at the Community Health Center on Village Green Way, and is part of an collaborative project called "Community Care" which looks for new ways to support healthy lifestyles and access to primary health services. Other Community Care partners include Harbor House Community Service Center, Maine Sea Coast Mission, Hancock County Planning Commission and Healthy Acadia.

“In Healthy for Life! we start with a healthy dose of acceptance and respect, and give a straightforward presentation of the person’s risk factors and how that compares to what is accepted as healthy,” states Ms. Bunker.

“If they choose to consider making some healthy lifestyle changes, we will work with them, providing appropriate support, encouragement, information, follow-up, and referral to other community resources,” she explains.

“I welcome the addition of a Nurse Advisor to the Center as a way of expanding the range of care I can offer my patients,” explains Julian Kuffler, M.D., M.P.H., Medical Director of the Community Health Center.

“Healthcare providers have known for a long time that telling people that they have health risks and they must change, then giving them some information and sending them on their way does not work.  We wanted to offer something different,” comments Dr. Kuffler.

Healthy for Life! employs the care management model used successfully by MDI Hospital with patients after discharge. After working for years as a Nurse Care Manager in the hospital setting, Bunker states she is “acutely aware” of the range of issues that affect a person’s health.

“We can’t expect people to consider healthy lifestyle changes if they are worried about paying their healthcare bill, are suffering from depression, or can’t afford their medications,” explains Ms. Bunker. “Our program will address the needs of the whole person.”

Ms. Bunker adds that, because of the funding, the program will initially be available for free, or at a reduced rate, which will encourage more people to seek healthcare.

“We want to get people into the health care system earlier so that chronic disease may be prevented, or can at least be kept from progressing,” states Ms. Bunker. 

Major support for Healthy For Life! and the Community Care project has been provided by the Maine Health Access Foundation (MeHAF).  Created in 2000, MeHAF is the state's largest Health Care Foundation. Their mission is to promote affordable, and timely access to comprehensive, quality healthcare and to improve the health of every Maine resident. In particular, MeHAF targets strategies that serve the uninsured and medically under served.

For more information on the Healthy for Life! program, call Catherine Bunker at 244-4403, or 244-5630.

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