Residents gather together to take action towards a healthier Hot Springs

Photo by Eric Boyd/Fall River County Herald

Wellmark’s Healthy Hometown program facilitator’s, Angie Brown and Mary Lawyer, conduct a critical thinking exercise with attendees at their public event, Tuesday, May 7th, 2019, at the Mueller Center. A “Vision for Hot Springs” will be created over the following months to help local advocates take action for a healthier Hot Springs.


By Eric Boyd

HOT SPRINGS — County residents met at the Mueller Center last Tuesday, May 7 to participate in an event called Healthy Hometown.

The event, co-sponsored by Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and Good & Healthy South Dakota, focused on discussion based activities regarding local health and well-being.

Groups were tasked with completing surveys on three subjects — How can the Hot Springs community: Eat Well, Move More, and Feel Better?

The three groups discussed each topic at length, assessing how Hot Springs provides healthy dietary options to its residents, promotes an active lifestyle, and harbors a society that enjoys feeling at their very best.

The big take-away from the group discussion — city residents are passionate about creating a healthier, more active, and more feel-good Hot Springs. But, their goals come with a certain challenge shared by many other high impact civic improvement efforts.

Helping inactive and unhealthy people change their lifestyle is good for the overall prosperity of a community; adversely, getting people to change their lifestyle is a very difficult thing to do.

At the meeting’s start, Healthy Hometown’s Community Manager, Angie Brown and Director of Community Health Improvement, Mary Lawyer, were very upfront about their program’s intentions: “Why is Wellmark, a health insurance company, here working with a community on community health improvement?

“There’s a good reason,” Lawyer said. “In 2008, our board of directors noted that the increase in healthcare cost is not going to be sustainable. The average family is not going to be able to pay for healthcare if that increase continues.”

“There a lot of attributes to that, but one of them is the increase rate of disease,” Lawyer continued.

According to Healthy Hometown director’s, Obesity is the No. 1 contributor to most chronic diseases—the major reason for increased healthcare costs across the country.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) claims that, “90% of the nation’s $3.3 trillion in annual healthcare expenditures are for people with chronic and mental health conditions,” as stated on their webpage focusing on the cost of chronic diseases.

More information from the CDC states: “Nothing kills more Americans than heart disease and stroke. More than 859,000 Americans die of heart disease of stroke every year—that’s one-third of all deaths.

“These diseases take an economic toll, as well, costing our health care system $199 billion per year and causing $131 billion in lost productivity on the job,” the report continues.

Considering the rising cost of healthcare—due, to in major part, our nation’s obesity epidemic—what can Hot Springs do to decrease these rising costs?

Healthy Hometown will work with Hot Springs to framework a process for improvement, but the real work starts with the residents of Fall River County.

As Healthy Hometown directors meet with residents over the following months, their goal is to continue to facility a productive process to create a clear vision and action plan for local advocates to take on.

Currently, attendees of last Tuesday’s are tasked with community outreach and fact finding missions to explore areas for improve in the immediate area. Updates will be featured here in the Fall River County Herald as the program evolves.

Get involved. Eat Healthier. Be more active. Feel Better.

More information can be found at:

Information from the CDC involving the cost of chronic diseases can be found at:

Fall River County Herald Star

EDGEMONT OFFICE: 410 2nd Avenue   Edgemont, SD 57735-0660 | 605.662.7201
HOT SPRINGS OFFICE: 334 S. Chicago St.  Hot Springs, SD 57747 | 605.745.3930
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