Volunteering for Good Health

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November 1, 2013


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Looking for a supplemental dose of good health? You can earn extra mental and physical health benefits by volunteering. That’s the verdict from various academic, medical and federal research reports.

Volunteer work leads to lower depression rates and better functional abilities, studies show. Other benefits include reduced levels of stress, chronic pain and heart disease symptoms.

Longevity is also a bonus. The Longitudinal Study of Aging tracked a group of senior citizens, 70 and older. As a group, those involved in volunteer projects had outlived the non-volunteer group by the end of the four-year survey. Even factoring in marital status, race, education/income levels, gender and age, other surveys found a strong connection between longevity and community service.

Community outreach is a key element in the Miami HEAT’s “championship DNA.” On and off-court, the HEAT organization and its players post a long roster of community outreach. Led by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the team’s activities have included a special holiday visit to young patients at Baptist Children’s Hospital. Additionally, several players have launched family foundations or sponsored events to raise money for different causes. Shooting guard Ray Allen, for example, actively supports Type 1 diabetes research and awareness.

But you don’t have to be a celebrity or a professional athlete to earn bonus health points for community service. That’s the philosophy at Baptist Health South Florida, which has set aside Saturday, November 9, as a Day of Service (details below.)

“Baptist Health employees, family members and friends will help the organization give back to the community,” says Phillis Oeters, corporate vice president of Government and Community Relations. “Each project will benefit the people served by providing much-needed improvements to each facility.”

Baptist Health employees and friends (Team Pineapple) will work on different community service projects throughout the area.

Here are a few:

  • Neva King Cooper Educational Center in Homestead is a specialized school for mentally handicapped students, ages 3 to 22. Baptist Health volunteers will paint, construct shelves and organize the school’s library.
  • Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit, housing ministry that provides safe and affordable homes for families. Team Pineapple will help build a home in Miami.
  • Davie Elementary School is a Broward elementary school with more than 700 students. Baptist Health volunteers will create a butterfly garden and outdoor seating for students, and repair landscape.

Other teams of Baptist Health volunteers will be involved in renovation or landscape projects at Shake-A-Leg Miami, St. Mary’s First Missionary Baptist Church and several West Kendall Elementary schools.

Teamwork, social connections and a sense of purpose are just a few of the mental health benefits offered by community service, according to Martha Sullivan, from Baptist Health’s Care and Counseling Services, which works with patients and families.

“It’s good for you emotionally,” Ms. Sullivan says. “When you do things with a group, you’re making new relationships with other people. You’re not isolated.”

Photo caption: Miami HEAT players Mario Chalmers, LeBron James, Norris Cole, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen with Chanel Marion, age 9, during their visit to Baptist Children’s Hospital.

Baptist Health and Doctors Hospital Center for Orthopedics & Sports Medicine are proud sponsors and medical providers of the Miami HEAT. Our very own Harlan Selesnick, M.D., has been their official team physician for the last 26 years.

 

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