Central Florida YMCA program links primary care to wellness

Maria Elena Augustin is halfway through radiation treatment for breast cancer, and she has promised herself not to take her health and her life for granted.

"But I didn't know how to actualize it," said Augustin, 56, who recently finished the Livestrong cancer support program at the YMCA of Central Florida.

That's when her coaches at the Y told her about the HealthierLifeRX program, which was unveiled at the agency Thursday.

HealthierLifeRX brings together local health systems, physicians and the YMCA to create continuity of care for patients who have certain health risks, including prevalent chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity.

Lifestyle coaches at the Y will help participants find resources within their community that can help them achieve their health goals.

The program was developed by leaders at YMCA of Central Florida, and they say that it could potentially bring to light a new model of care.

"This partnership is so unique that it's at the forefront of where medicine can and probably should go, because it's a new way of delivering medical care," said Dr. Angela Fals, medical director for the Florida Hospital Center for Child & Family Wellness. "You're actually in the community, in the health-and-wellness environment. We can do a lot of prevention in this setting."

The free program will be in pilot mode during the next three years, with limited enrollment of 500 to 1,000 patients, regardless of income and health-insurance status.

"We do want to study various aspects of the program to find out what's working, because whatever we have today is not working," said Beth Boyer Kollas, executive director of health outcomes and program integration at the Central Florida YMCA.

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