Minnesota Hospital Association


March 08, 2017

FirstLight Health System inspires well kids

In recent years, FirstLight Health System has taken a particular interest in helping kids in Mora, Pine City, Hinckley and Ogilvie become healthier. FirstLight introduced this concept through a community wellness program called WellnessFirst, which has been inspiring kids to become healthier by teaching them healthy habits including good nutrition and physical activity.

WellnessFirst has one mission in mind: to help create a culture of health in the community, where members are actively engaged in improving their health. This diverse program was formed to create healthy new initiatives; facilitate sustainable, positive change through collaboration and partnership with other organizations; and provide education on wellness topics to all age groups.

Since the inception of the WellnessFirst program in 2012, a need to improve the health of area students emerged from a review of community and school survey results, and eventually a strong partnership with area schools developed. The health and wellness of students became a top priority for WellnessFirst and efforts to reach this population became integrated into its mission. Using a preventative framework of healthy eating and increased physical activity, efforts to create programs that would inspire kids to become healthier took shape. 

One initiative of WellnessFirst, WELLkids, was created to not only promote the importance of healthy habits to students but also generate excitement about making independent, healthy choices. During weekly sessions, a registered dietitian provided an interactive education activity on healthy eating and a physical therapist provided guided education on physical activity. Through this program, students were taught how to choose a healthy snack at home and how to identify whole grain foods, and they had a chance to sample a “groovy” green smoothie. Hula hoops, pedometers, pogo sticks and yoga were just some of the physical activity options the students were able to try.

The students received take-home resources to encourage healthy habits at home and a small wellness-related incentive to create enthusiasm. At the end of the four-week program, students received a WELLkids certificate to showcase their achievement and share their excitement about the program with other students and teachers, indicating support for future similar events.

Other wellness initiatives provided through WellnessFirst to reach children and students in the community included:  

  • Rethink Your Drink education at area health fairs
  • Hosting the annual Walk To School event in October 2015
  • Involvement in Crunchtime, a weekly summer food program where fun physical activities were introduced to kids
  • Basic nutrition education to elementary-aged students
  • Wellness education to parents and preschoolers through Early Childhood and Family Education
  • Kid-related events hosted at the Pine City Famers Market
  • Divided plate program presented at three-year well child checks
  • Reach Out and Read program development at FirstLight Clinics
  • FirstLight’s inaugural ColorMy5K walk/run on June 4, 2015, promoting the love of walking and running as lifetime activities

The WellnessFirst program has inspired over 1,200 children and students to be healthy through education, events and activities in the year 2015 alone and is committed to keeping kids healthy in the years to come.