As a working mom of three young children, the adage “it takes a village” rings loud and true. My husband and I often lean on our community to keep our lives moving forward, to maintain our sanity and simply for a feeling of belonging. In addition to the people that surround and support us, community programs and connectedness are essential to our quality of life—to our social, emotional, physical, and mental health.
Social and environmental factors play a huge role in our physical and emotional wellbeing, and in our sense of community. We’ve all seen this in many forms. For example, the availability of reliable public transportation can shape how easily healthcare consumers can access medical treatment or pick up prescriptions. We’ve also seen how isolation fueled by remote work might increase loneliness and, therefore, depression. We recognize these problems as healthcare professionals, but fostering community is as crucial to treating these problems as visiting the doctor.
The famous Blue Zones are an example of community and community health, as evidenced by the NetFlix series Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones. Blue Zones, in case you’re not familiar, are areas across the world where people live the longest, often surpassing 100 years old. Research has found that a sense of belonging and close relationships were common denominators among those who lived past 100—proof that our health is irreplaceably tied to the world and people around us.
Community health in action.
Community health is one of the greatest investments we can make individually and collectively. A healthy community benefits everyone by reducing healthcare disparity, lowering healthcare costs, and making necessities like a home, nutrition, employment, education and transportation accessible.
Among the things that make me most proud at Zelis is our ZelisCares program. Launched last year, ZelisCares is committed to improving the health and wellbeing of our 2,400+ associates, our clients and our communities. We engage in dialogue and action around the issues that impact our associates and those around us. ZelisCares includes a corporative giving initiative, ZelisCares Giving, that supports national and local nonprofits in communities where our associates and clients live and work. We enable our team to give to causes that matter the most to them, contributing through volunteerism, making monetary donations, and assembling emergency aid kits. In our first year, we supported 450 charities, logged more than 2,000 volunteer hours and abolished $565,000 of medial debt for 1,055 in partnership with RIP Medical Debt.
One organization that we’re thrilled to support for the second consecutive year is the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which has become synonymous with breast cancer awareness. In addition to investing $1B+ in breast cancer research, it unites communities with walks and races and provides educational information, resources, and patient support services. What started as a woman’s promise to her dying sister has become the most famous community fight against breast cancer.
In addition to Susan G. Komen, we’re also partnering with the American Cancer Society to sponsor in-person and virtual walks for our associates and their families and friends to participate in throughout this month to raise breast cancer awareness. I smile each weekend as I get photos from the hundreds of Zelots and their families walking across more than a dozen cities. When you join a walk, you’re doing far more than you realize. You’re improving our community health. You’re giving those battling breast cancer everywhere a fighting chance.
I watched my mom battle breast cancer for a very long time. In one of our final conversations, she shared her optimism that there would be a cure for the disease in my lifetime. I’m the captain of our walk in Cambridge, MA, on October 28…come out and join us if you can! For me, each step is a tribute to my mom and to making her hope a reality.
Staying healthy together.
Our lives are busy, no doubt. Making time for community seems like a “nice to do,” not a “must do” like getting dinner on the table and helping kids with their homework. But community is critical because it enriches all of us.
So lean into each other. Carve out time to go on a family walk. Find a local nonprofit to volunteer with a couple hours each month. Join the fight for a cure. Donate canned food to a local food bank. Check in on a neighbor. You’d be amazed at how much it shifts your perspective. It awakens something in all of us when we live our lives immersed in community, escaping the loneliness and routine and charting a collective course toward better community health.
There is no better time than right now to contribute to and partake in community; as we head into the holidays, our emotional, mental, social and physical wellbeing are even more important. If not for someone else, then do it for you. That’s one small step toward a healthier community. Let’s not take for granted what we have and the impact we can make in our communities.
Be well and take care of yourself and those around you!