Ask any group of elementary-age children in the Lake Chelan valley what Max the dog wants, and hands wave all over the room. “Eat healthy,” the kids shout. “Drink water! Get lots of exercise!”
Max the dog, the mascot ambassador of the children’s wellness program at Lake Chelan Community Hospital and Clinics, has been making health fun for the valley’s youngest residents for the last two years, visiting schools, libraries and community events with the hospital’s wellness team. Since then, community outreach has blossomed, with a Max cross-country 5k fun run, a Facebook family fitness challenge and designated parking spaces at the grocery store that encourage a few extra steps to the door.
Additionally, the wellness team partners with local schools to sponsor and support after-school programs like Max Attack Healthy Snacks and family wellness events. In December, more than 250 children and parents attended Max’s third Fit & Fun Night in Manson, a small town seven miles from Chelan.
“Max has become a universally known mascot to kids in our community,” said Lake Chelan Community Hospital and Clinics CEO Kevin Abel. “He helps us teach children that exercise and healthy eating can be fun.”
The program is aligned with one of the hospital’s strategies that followed its last Community Health Needs Assessment: chronic disease prevention. In a nearby school district, at least 28 percent of elementary students in all grade levels were identified as overweight or obese, and 47 percent of fifth-graders were identified as overweight or obese. While the hospital was already reaching out to adults, it knew it needed to reach this younger demographic as well.
Encouraging healthy living at a young age is crucial to building long-term health that spans into adulthood. The Max program is one of the many great ways Washington hospitals are building a healthier future for our state.