LETTER-Support sought for reopening of Tuba City Family Wellness Center

Tuba City Family Wellness Center (Courtesy photo).

Tuba City Family Wellness Center (Courtesy photo).

To the editor:

Recently, the Tuba City Family Wellness Center was abruptly closed and shut down. The news of this has taken a toll on our community. It came suddenly, leaving the community in a state of shock and disbelief. It has also negatively impacted Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation (TCRHCC). We have watched over the years as this local wellness center grow and expand its capacity to meet the needs of local programs - all to improve health at the community level.

The Family Wellness Center (FWC) began originally as a local vision to address needs at a community level. At the time of its inception it was designed to be separate from the Navajo Nation and the Tuba City Indian Medical Center (now known as the Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation). What started out as a vision and a dream became a reality in 1997. The FWC had local support and partner commitment. Overall, the vision and goal was not to be an extension of the Navajo Nation, and thus lose its autonomy.

Community members have questioned the hospital's affiliation with the FWC closure, as no proper or accurate information has been communicated by the Navajo Nation Special Diabetes Program to the public. The fact is there is no hospital affiliation with the decision to close the Wellness Center. All closure decisions were made at the discretion of the Navajo Nation. Their reasons for the closure have not been conveyed to the community. Not knowing the facts affects the rapport between TCRHCC and the Tuba City community.

Since the establishment of the FWC, the hospital has referred patients to utilize the facility to help promote positive healthy outcomes. As we know, and statistics would show, our community (along with the nation as a whole) is enduring an epidemic of various illnesses due to lack of exercise and poor diets. I strongly believe in wellness and preventive care through exercise to promote an overall healthy lifestyle. Closing the Tuba City FWC limits our community members' ability to become healthier through exercise and in learning healthy living habits.

TCRHCC staff has also felt the effects of the closure of the FWC, especially with the facility being on our hospital grounds. The closure impacts our staff as they have enjoyed using the facility, realizing positive health benefits. As a result of staff members taking care of themselves and feeling good as individuals, there is great added benefit in patient care.

Further, our primary prevention programs, such as our Health Promotion/Disease Prevention Program, have now lost an important partner in community health. In collaboration with the FWC, special needs have been met in support of families, parents and individuals. This has been evident with after-school programs, nutrition education, healthy cooking demonstrations, and individual support in the areas of fitness training for our diabetic patients, our patients 'at-risk' for cardiovascular diseases, and others who want to prevent the onset of diabetes.

TCRHCC has been a strong benefactor from, and I hope a good partner with the FWC. We want to thank them for their commitment to their community, their desire to improve the health of Tuba City people, and the guts and courage to be "out of the box" in being visionary.

Your board, your program staff and your members are a tribute to where we need to keep going in order to truly be self-sufficient at the individual, family and community levels.

I encourage dialog as to how we can resolve this issue. We must support the reopening of the FWC. At the same time TCRHCC wants to maintain a positive relationship with our community.

Joseph Engelken

TCRHCC CEO

Tuba City

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