At AL!VE, Health Meets You Where You Are

Julie Bitely

| 5 min read

Representatives from the worldwide leader in medical care, research and education are on a list of over 40 hospitals across the country who’ve made their way to the small town of Charlotte, Michigan. They’re making pilgrimages to learn more about Alive, or AL!VE as the facility calls itself, a multi-use health park operated by Hayes Green Beach (HGB) Memorial Hospital.
“We’ve become a model for other hospitals,” said Patrick Sustrich, AL!VE’s executive director and vice president of health and wellness at the hospital.
A New Approach to Health and Vitality
AL!VE transformed a vacant Felpausch grocery store and CVS pharmacy on the west end of Charlotte when it opened in 2011. The idea for the health park grew out of conversations at HGB about how to truly transform health and vitality in the community. Rehabilitation, spa, and women’s health services fused seamlessly with a healthy eating café, indoor walking path, rock climbing wall, activity gym, and a demonstration teaching kitchen. A second phase was completed in 2012, extending the walking path, adding a workout area, a children’s recreational and development area, and a dedicated conference space.
Sustrich said health isn’t forced on anyone who walks in the door at AL!VE, but rather it’s drawn out of them through discovery and positive interactions at the health park and with the staff. For example, a working mom coming in for a routine mammogram might be able to take an afternoon stroll on EXPLORE, the walking path that meanders past MOVE, the workout center and RELISH, the teaching kitchen. She can attend to her health needs confident her child is in good hands with on-site childcare provided in GROW, the children’s recreational area. Patients working with a physical therapist are encouraged to use the equipment in BRIDGE, a transitional workout space at AL!VE and might also find it convenient to schedule a spa service in FUSE or grab a healthy bite to eat at the café, NOURISH by The Big Salad.
Alive 2
Making health convenient and removing barriers that interfere with healthy lifestyles means more people will gravitate toward making healthier choices naturally, Sustrich said. The facility’s community declaration explains it this way:
“Being AL!VE is less a state, more a direction. Being AL!VE is more a possibility to live into than a standard to live up to. Being alive is a decision made by a person, a profession, a people. It can start right now from anywhere.”
Alive rock wall
Revitalizing a Community and Spreading the Alive Spirit
The explanation point in the name matches the enthusiasm Charlotte residents and surrounding community members have shown the center since it opened its doors. In a town with a population of about 10,000 people, 13,000 have a L!NK card, which helps staff customize experiences for AL!VE visitors, such as therapy and spa services. It also gives its users first notice on new programs and events, access to a frequency reward program in the café, and the ability to check out games, e-book readers and balls for play in SOAR, the multi-purpose gym. Additionally, AL!VE is hoping to use L!NK in the near future to track whether an individual has a primary care physician and/ or health insurance. Annually, AL!VE sees over 200,000 visitors and averages about 250 people coming in daily to use the free walking path.
Everyone is welcome. Using EXPLORE, the facility’s walking path, which features real live plants and plenty of natural light with views to the health park’s campus, is completely free. You can also come in and enjoy a game of hoops at the basketball court or even scale their rock wall at no charge. A 50-page program guide outlines free and fee-based classes community members can enjoy and membership opportunities are available for JOURNEY, the women’s health center and MOVE, the fitness center.
Sustrich said leaders at HGB hoped to create a health oasis that would anchor the hospital as a health innovator, but also do its part to give back to the community.
“We realized we were only as strong as the community we’re part of,” he said.
A building boom has taken place near the center, with new dental offices and other service-oriented businesses taking form. Nearby apartment complexes have waiting lists and Sustrich said he’s seen AL!VE mentioned as a selling point in local real estate listings. A couple of Charlotte’s newer residents admit AL!VE was an asset that was a draw to move to the area. There’s interest in developing senior housing on part of AL!VE’s property and the Gavel Restaurant even has an AL!VE-inspired healthy menu.
It’s not only the people who use AL!VE’s services and the surrounding community benefiting from the health park. Employee engagement scores at AL!VE have continued to increase well beyond that of the healthcare norm. Sustrich said he’s working to implement cultural elements from AL!VE to transform HGB’s culture moving forward.
AL!VE staffers are also working as consultants for a similar health park being developed by a hospital in Texas, whose planning team made the trip to visit AL!VE in 2014.
If you live in the Lansing area, take an afternoon or evening to check out all that AL!VE has to offer. If you don’t live close by, tell us where you go to feel healthy and well in the comments.
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Photo credit: A Healthier Michigan

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