How this organization is helping you be more accountable.
You may not realize that Kentuckiana serves as a central hub for numerous organizations focused on aging well, one of which is the Trager Institute, a nonprofit affiliated with the University of Louisville. “Our philosophy is that we can flourish as we age; aging is an opportunity, not a disease,” says Mona Huff, a community health education coordinator at Trager.
One of the many health promotion opportunities at Trager is the free Microclinics Program which addresses a person’s physical and mental health needs by building community and promoting accountability. While a person of any age can participate, many older people have found the program especially helpful if they are dealing with chronic illnesses such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
The Microclinics Program focuses on nutrition and movement without using words like “diet” and “exercise” which tend to turn people off. Often people are hesitant to enter any kind of program because they expect to have to make huge changes in a very short period of time, but Microclinics starts by encouraging two small changes: exchanging sugary drinks for water and stretching. “You can’t shove good health down people’s throats; we have to model it,” Mona says.
While physical health is the focus of Microclinics, some of its topics include healthy problem-solving and mental health which can make or break a person’s goal to pivot to a healthier lifestyle. “We talk about problems we might have and people who might sabotage us,” Mona says.
What makes Microclinics unique is the way it brings people together. “The social connection [of the program] is sometimes considered the secret sauce,” Mona says. “We start with an individual and ask them to invite their social support,” which can be friends, family members, or co-workers.
The beauty of this approach is that it provides support but allows each person to choose his or her own support team. Nearly everyone has had the experience, whether at school, work, or a social event, of being put into a group not of their own choosing and having to negotiate the awkwardness that follows. By self-selecting the individuals who become their health encouragement team, Microclinics participants promote their own health while also contributing positively to the larger model of public health.
Trager adopted the Microclinics Program in late 2018, but Mona says much of 2019 was spent training and having staff and practicum students adopt it themselves. Before bringing the program to the larger community, it was important that Trager representatives model what they hoped individual patients would adopt themselves. Of course, 2020 happened which forced Mona to change the delivery of the Microclinics Program to the public. She rewrote the curriculum to be virtual, retrained Trager staff, and is now ramping up to get more clients to try it out.
Mona says the virtual programming is really focused on multi-generational participants and their families. “We want our young people to learn early so they don’t get some of these same chronic diseases their grandparents have,” she says. Plus, a grandparent who participates with a grandchild has the benefit of having a person well-versed in technology to help them navigate Zoom. While Mona looks forward to when she can have in-person classes again, she says virtual Microclinics classes have allowed individuals who might never have participated in a real-life program to learn about and improve their health.
How to Sign Up
Classes are currently meeting virtually once per week over a 10-week period. Participants work in small groups of their existing friends, family members, or co-workers to learn easy and practical ways to eat healthier, become more active, and take control of their health conditions in a supportive, group environment. Sign up at tragerinstitute.org/microclinic-program.
By Carrie Vittitoe
P.S. Swim the pain away.