Premier Health Expands Reach of Free Wellness and Fitness Program for First Responders

DAYTON, Ohio (May 2, 2019) – Premier Health is expanding the reach of a free comprehensive wellness and fitness program that supports the effectiveness, efficiency and durability of first responders. The Healthy Heroes program prepares first responders for the physical readiness of the job and helps fight risk factors associated with sudden cardiac arrest. 

“This is a remarkable and innovative program that helps the first responders - who keep us safe - healthy and functioning at their best. Being a first responder is very physically demanding as well as a dangerous profession,” said Jeffrey James, MD, south medical director for the Healthy Heroes program. “Being in good health mentally and physically is important in allowing them to function best at their job without risking further injury to themselves or those they are trying to help.”

“We are creating a program to treat our tactical athletes to try to mitigate the effects of a very stressful job. We look at exercise, nutrition, stress reduction,” said Brett Hoffman, Premier Health coordinator of sports and human performance. “We want them to appreciate the athletes that they are. Our mantra is serving those who serve us, to help the people who take care of us in our worst time.”

A Certified Athletic Trainer credentialed as a Certified Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator conducts weekly injury evaluation clinics at the fire station. Working one-on-one with firefighters, the athletic trainer provides preventive consultations and education, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention, rehabilitation of injuries and referral for medical conditions as needed.

“It is a bonus we can see them in their workplace. It is easy to get an assessment and saves time. Overall, I think that will be great for health and wellness,” said Jeff Rayborn, MD, north medical director for the Healthy Heroes program. “Our goal is to keep them performing to the best of their ability and be a resource for them.”

Currently, Healthy Heroes programs are being implemented in Huber Heights, Clayton, Troy, Moraine, Vandalia, Brookville and Beavercreek Fire Departments. The Centerville Police Department recently joined the program as well. 

The expanded reach of this free program for first responders has been made possible through the support of the Premier Health foundations, including Miami Valley Hospital Foundation, Good Samaritan Hospital Foundation - Dayton, Atrium Medical Center Foundation and the Upper Valley Medical Center Foundation.

One Participant’s Story

After three decades of work in the fire service, Mike Muhl’s body was showing wear and tear.

As the Huber Heights fire division battalion chief thought about options, he had a couple of goals in mind. “I was looking to prolong my career, and I was looking for a way to get myself healthy again,” he said.

With an “extremely arthritic knee” and the effects of other injuries piled up over time, Muhl around two years ago turned to Premier Health and the Healthy Heroes program for first responders. He visited the program at Miami Valley Hospital North two to three times a week and, within a couple of months, lost weight and regained his mobility. 

When Premier Health expanded the Healthy Heroes program earlier this year by taking it into the work environment of first responders, Muhl had laid the groundwork with fellow firefighters. “I had already prepared them on how the program could benefit firefighters over all. When it was time to start, everyone was well-schooled in it,” Muhl said.

Muhl said the program is well thought out. “It approaches health and wellness in a holistic manner. They are addressing firefighters as athletes, realizing what we do is similar to athletes, with intense work within a short duration of time,” said Muhl. He credits the program with allowing him to continue his work despite his knee, which was recommended for replacement due to the level of arthritis and past damage incurred. Due to intervention, he has been able to continue work and delay replacement without sacrificing mobility and quality of life.

Muhl turned immediately to Premier Health orthopedics last fall after his leg was crushed in training. Prompt care and treatment helped him return to work more quickly than anticipated, he said. “It is fantastic. The athletic trainers and doctors can identify a problem and deal with it. I firmly believe this program is key to me being able to continue in my work,” he said.

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