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Chinese delegation learns from Winnipeg wellness centre

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Winnipeg’s Wellness Institute has become a model for China’s changing health care landscape.

A delegation of 30 people from the China Hospital Association’s Health Management Professional Committee, which represents 5,000 of the country’s 20,000 hospitals, is in Winnipeg until Friday to tour the Wellness Institute facility at Seven Oaks General Hospital (SOGH), attend a symposium and learn about its programming and how it is delivered.

The Chinese delegates are interested in how "Seven Oaks has integrated a self-sufficient, non-profit facility which offers health promotion and illness prevention programs into a publicly funded hospital," a press release stated.

The Wellness Institute, built in 1997, is an 80,000-square-foot certified medical fitness facility which is part of the SOGH. The Wellness Institute offers a variety of fitness programs for all ages of individuals and families, medically integrated programs for those suffering from chronic illnesses as well as health, lifestyle and community education classes.

"It shines a spotlight on a model that we grew in Winnipeg," said Carrie Solmundson, the Seven Oaks president and chief operating officer.

"It’s being recognized internationally as something that’s really successful and having an impact. It is something that can be duplicated, not only in Manitoba and across Canada but in other countries facing the same burden of chronic disease that we’ve been facing. It’s a model to reorientate our health care system to make sure we’re focusing on prevention."

"China has experienced an increase in chronic disease like Canada with the aging population and the (need for) lifestyle change with poor nutrition, smoking, stress and not having enough exercise," said Michael Zhang, the Wellness Institute’s director of international research and an adjunct professor at the University of Winnipeg. He is acting as the liaison with the Chinese Hospital Association.

"Currently the China health care system is experiencing a lot of changes so one of the priorities is to try to prevent chronic disease... They want to see what we’ve done here for health management."

Zhang said the Chinese Hospital Association has asked Wellness Institute representatives to create a plan to train their personnel and consult with member hospitals so the Wellness Institute model can be implemented in China.

SOGH representatives will present at China Hospital Association’s annual conference in December and there will be four or five groups of Chinese doctors, possibly about 25 individuals, training at SOGH next year.

"They’re talking about their physicians and their nurses to get training in our chronic disease prevention and management approaches," Solmundson said.

The Chinese delegates attended a reception on Wednesday night at Government House hosted by Lieutenant Governor Philip Lee which also included Dr. Joseph Du and members of the Winnipeg Chinese Cultural Association.

It is the second time in three years that Chinese health care delegates have visited the SOGH. A smaller delegation from China’s Anhui Provincial Hospital toured North America in October 2011 and visited a few sites in Winnipeg including Seven Oaks. That delegation had been interested in measures taken by the SOGH emergency room’s innovations in process and design to improve patient flow such as non-specific treatment rooms equipped with supply carts which reduce wait times since many different treatments can be done in any room.

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