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November 22, 2012

Cumberland area could become wellness haven

CUMBERLAND — The city of Cumberland and the surrounding area could become a beacon of integrative medicine and wellness for the region. That’s the view of Marion Leonard, a community wellness advocate.

“There is a wellness movement in the U.S.,” Leonard said. “Why should we not be known as a wellness destination?” Leonard said. “I think we are ahead of a lot of communities.”

A movement is already under way locally and “putting all those individual efforts together will cause a shift in perception ... and we know perception becomes reality,” Leonard said.

The number of higher educational institutions in the area and an outstanding health care system make Cumberland and Allegany County a prime ground for a center of integrative health and wellness, Leonard said. Massage therapy, nursing and other healing arts are taught at local institutions, she said.

Leonard pointed to Duke University’s leadership as a model for combining traditional medicine and other modes of healing from around the world, including meditation, acupuncture and other traditional healing methods.

The body and mind are intertwined in both healing and disease prevention, Leonard said.

Integrative medicine “is a new approach to medical care that brings patient and practitioner together in a dynamic partnership dedicated to optimizing the patient’s health and healing. This approach focuses on the whole person, recognizing that the subtle interactions of mind, body, spirit and community have a direct impact on vitality and well-being,” according to the Duke University Integrative Medicine website.

Those approaches may include yoga, acupuncture, massage and meditation, among other modalities, Leonard said.

Leonard herself has practiced and taught yoga for years. She is also a mindfulness-based stress reduction program instructor.

“They can have a huge impact on managing stress, reducing blood pressure and strengthening the immune system,” Leonard said. The local medical community is open to an integrative approach to wellness, she said.

There are 10 components of wellness, Leonard said, and most are in abundance in our community.

Intellectual wellness, for instance, is fostered by the Imagination Library, which provided free books to children from their birth to 5 years of age.

Despite the economic challenges the region faces, the “mosaic, the larger picture,” points to positive things happening in the community, Leonard said.

All that’s needed is a common vision, she said.

“The vision can inspire people to look at what is around them and move forward,” she said.

The Imagination Library website is at: http://www.imaginationlibraryofalleganycounty.org/

To learn more about integrative medicine, visit: http://www.dukeintegrativemedicine.org/

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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