Current ILC Wellness Programming: A Pilot Survey
In July 1998 a pilot telephone survey was conducted at the University of Michigan Medical Center. A two-page questionnaire was developed with the purpose of discovering more about the attitudes and activities of ILCs across the country regarding wellness programming for staff and consumers. Thirty-three ILCs were randomly called with a fairly even representation from the major geographical regions in the country with no duplicate states called. Seven were contacted on the east coast; nine in the Midwest, six in the south; 9 in the west; plus Alaska and Hawaii. The telephone interviewer spoke only with ILC staff members.
When staff members were asked if they offered a comprehensive health promotion program (ie, one that included exercise, nutrition, and psychosocial topics such as stress management) to their consumers, 70% responded no, while 30% indicated that they did provide such a program. When asked if their center offered single-focused programs in exercise/fitness, 85% said no, while 15% said yes. Fifty-two percent of the respondents said that they do offer specific programs or services on healthy nutritional practices, while 48% said they did not. When asked about employee wellness programs, 85% of the centers reported that they have no such programs, while 15% do offer them. Based on the assumption that all ILCs offer some educational presentations on wellness-related topics, individuals who were called were asked to respond to a list of twenty eight programs, indicating whether or not they provide them. The results follow in Table 1 below. For readability, the list is divided into two categories: 1) medical/physical fitness and 2) lifestyle enhancement. The most prevalent topics offered to consumers by ILCs surveyed in category 1 were: "use of community resources for physical fitness purposes" (64%) and "safety and injury prevention" (40%). In category 2, lifestyle enhancement topics offered, the most frequent responses were "use of community resources" and "self-advocacy, " with 97% of the ILCs called reporting that they do offer these programs.
When asked if they believed that Independent Living Centers should offer comprehensive health promotion programs for consumers, 66% said "yes", while 33% answered "no." Lack of consumer interest and the fact that the concept is overly medical and should be left to the hospitals were two of the major reasons that respondents did not endorse such wellness programming. Those who answered "yes," were asked what it would take to produce these programs. A variety of responses ensued including, "funding, partnering with experts, time, planning, a clear desire on the part of staff, governmental and national ILC organizational endorsements, and consumer transportation arrangements."
To summarize, most ILCs did not provide a comprehensive wellness program, but most do believe that this is something they should be doing. With some developmental funding and further ILC staff education and encouragement about the positive possibilities and the relevance of health promotion to the ILCs' consumer empowerment-based mission and goals, more ILCs could soon be providing wellness programs for their customers.