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Hadassah’s Community Health Program Celebrates Graduation of New Group of Volunteers

The Hadassah Medical Center's Community Health Promotion Program for women aged 60 and above in the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem celebrated the graduation of 42 volunteer leaders in September.

The program, first piloted in the Gonenim neighborhood of Jerusalem, aims to empower older women to design healthy lifestyles for themselves and their families and, in turn, influence the health of their community. The program is a project of Hadassah's Patricia and Russell Fleischman Women's Health Center.

It was 12 years ago that the Center first piloted its concept of empowering women to adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle by training volunteers from their community to educate them. These volunteers learn not only about women's health issues, but also how to build health promotion into the infrastructure of their neighborhoods; how to create a supportive social environment; and how to motivate women to take full advantage of the health services available to them. The first program was aimed at the women of Beit Shemesh; subsequently, the program was brought to Abu-Gosh, an Arab village in Western Jerusalem, where the Hadassah Center worked with the Abu-Gosh Municipality and the Ministry of Health to implement the program.

Activities to promote a healthy lifestyle are divided into subgroups--for example, community lectures, physical exercise, home visits, "brain games," and cooking workshops. Through this holistic, multi-layered education, the program aims to increase awareness about health issues that typically affect older women, the importance of periodic health examinations for early diagnosis of disease, and the value of a supportive social network.

Aligned with the 1947 World Health Organization definition of health as "physical, mental, and social welfare and not necessarily the absence of disease," the Hadassah program seeks to be culturally sensitive, always taking into account the unique cultural background of the individual women and how it may affect their health. "This is surely an unusual program," explains Tal Atzmon, Coordinator of the Patricia and Russell Fleischman Women's Health Center, "because it empowers older single women with a joyful independence and allows those who live alone to know that each day brings with it the promise of gainful activity."

Date: 11/15/2012

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