‘Healthiest small town’

Health care practitioner promotes health care village concept

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Local nurse practitioner Jane Hoover is working to add a new honor to Sandpoint’s growing list of media accolades. She wants it to be known as “The Healthiest Small Town in America.” (Photo by DAVID GUNTER)

‘I think Sandpoint is at the tipping point where we can really change the health of the community. I think we could be the healthiest small town in the U.S.’

  —Jane Hoover, nurse practitioner

SANDPOINT — Just when it seemed like our fair city couldn’t rack up any more “small town” awards — after all, at last count, we’re already the best, the cutest and the friendliest in America — nurse practitioner Jane Hoover stepped forward in search of yet another accolade.

“I’d like to make Sandpoint known as the Healthiest Small Town in the United States,” she said.

To get there, Hoover has reached out to individuals, class participants and members of the local medical community and restaurateurs to put the word out about healthy lifestyle changes.

She first set foot on this course after becoming frustrated in her own practice at Pend Oreille Health Care, founded by her business partner, Michelle Anderson. The nature of modern medicine meant that Hoover had only a handful of minutes to spend with each client. Too often, she said, the health of many clients could be tracked as a steady decline from checkup to checkup.

She had already given all the “you need to” speeches she wanted to give, including admonitions to stop smoking, start eating better, get some exercise — you name it.

“I was thinking, ‘What else can I do?’” Hoover said.

In answer to her own question, the nurse practitioner started an adjunct program to her office practice, starting with individual clients and working her way up to the current slate of group sessions and workshops she offers under the mantle, “Feel Good Nutrition.”

Rather than one-sided directives, Hoover now engages those in the program in an ongoing conversation, one designed to involve them in the process of finding solutions.

Instead of saying, “Your cholesterol is high; here’s your prescription,” this medical professional tells people, “Your cholesterol is high; here are our choices.” Chief among them, she explained, is a focus on what her clients consume.

“The diet aspect is the part I do the most of,” she said. “But I prefer to use the word ‘lifestyle’ versus ‘diet’ because I do delve into emotional health, as well.”

Tools for reaching emotional health include mindfulness and stress-reduction training, always looping back to the idea that you really are what you eat. For example, Hoover draws a direct connection between depression and diet, as well as a strong correlation between food choices and fatigue.

As her program grows, she plans to steer the practice toward a preemptive approach to medicine, where she works with others in the medical community to become a partner in patient health.

“I keep saying, ‘It takes a village,’” she said. “In my ideal world, I would love to be an adjunct provider.”

For Sandpoint to earn the “healthiest small town” recognition, this kind of integrative medicine will be key, she added.

“It’s a matter of taking natural medicine, alternative care and Western medicine and bringing them together,” the nurse practitioner said, envisioning a cooperative effort where practitioners examine patient nutrition before they turn to prescription drugs. “It’s the ‘food-as-medicine first’ way to go.”

Still based in large part on traditional medicine, Hoover’s practice relies on diagnostic tools such as lab work and exploration of symptoms as the means to gain anecdotal and experiential evidence. This data does more than get filed away — it goes to work as part of the health program.

“I do anything I possibly can to get as much subjective and objective information as I can at the beginning,” Hoover said. “Then we use it as both a benchmark for health and for client motivation.”

Casting her net beyond patients and providers, Hoover recently contacted Sandpoint restaurants and asked them to join her in the healthy eating cause. The bar was high as far as criteria — menu items must be vegan (with meat or dairy available upon request), made with healthy fats, high in fiber and have to include a list of ingredients for customer perusal.

Even with the lofty expectations, a surprisingly large number of dining establishments — nearly a dozen at this point — have added the delicate, little “Feel Good Sandpoint” sunflower icon to menu items that make the nutritional grade. Among the participating restaurants are: Ivano’s Ristorante; Spud’s Waterfront Grill; Trinity at City Beach; Pend d’Oreille Winery; Di Luna’s Café; Earth Rhythms; Tango Café; The Readery; Common Knowledge Bookstore & Café; Babs’ Pizzeria; and Winter Ridge Natural Foods.

If this health care village comes together as Hoover imagines it, Sandpoint could have a decided advantage over other communities not blessed with the natural amenities and quality of life we enjoy.

“Look at the fresh air and clean water we already have and the physical things we can do here,” she said. “I think Sandpoint is at the tipping point where we can really change the health of the community. I think we could be the healthiest small town in the U.S.”

For more information on restaurants participating in the Feel Good Nutrition program, as well as classes and workshops, call Jane Hoover at (208) 265-2221 or learn about the program online at: www.feelgoodsandpoint.com

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