Health Possible Inc. promotes wellness in Wilmington
SARA AULD’s experience as a fitness trainer has led her to start what may be a one-of-a-kind concept — providing wellness financial aid for a person’s wellness health care, whether provided on a one-to-one basis or in a small-group setting.
“I’ve researched again and again, and no one does what we do,” Auld says.
She founded Health Possible Inc., an all-volunteer organization that opened in Wilmington in February 2017.
The organization has fourteen in-house volunteers including an advisory council, board of directors, and staff.
HPI has a Wellness Provider Network, which includes professionals in the community who address fitness, nutrition, and mental health care that is partially funded by HPI.
“HPI is a health care navigator, financial aid system, and case management provider,” Auld says. “All wellness financial aid is privately funded through donations and fundraising activities such as a recent first-ever gala, which was sold out.
“We’re really trying to reinvent primary care where we allow people to self-advocate and apply (to the program) themselves, but we also receive patient referrals.”
Those come from places such as New Hanover Regional Medical Center, Wilmington Health, and small family practices, Auld explains.
Making this achievement more impressive is Sara’s age, twenty-six, and the fact that her work with HPI is also volunteer; she has a full-time job as a clinical manager.
After attending Manhattanville College in New York, where she played Division III collegiate women’s soccer, Auld knew she wanted to help people.
She moved to Wilmington and tapped into her desire to coach people and be healthy and became a personal trainer at a gym.
In addition to providing personal training, Auld became a trainer with a knack for working with people with medical issues and physical limitations.
She began training people who couldn’t afford it for free after work, allowing them to pay with their grit and determination instead of dollars and cents.
Auld began thinking about gaps in health insurance coverage, which often doesn’t cover wellness or coordinate care for things such as physical movement, education, and training related to diet and exercise and the skills required to provide healthy meals and become mentally healthy.
Soon the entrepreneur in Auld started turning wheels, trying to build a business to support the needs she saw in these areas. She knew it had to be a nonprofit.
She considered a model that takes into account how much someone earns and how much they could afford to pay to improve their health; in her mind, her evolving venture would find a way to fund the rest.
Auld wrote a business plan in two months with the help of HPI board chair Chris Diehl and the University of North Carolina Wilmington Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Today the program works like this:
Patients are either referred to HPI by their health care provider or learn about the organization elsewhere.
Potential participants apply on the HPI website. The application asks about their finances, insurance, medical history, work experience, and education, all aimed at determining how to best serve them.
If they meet the admission requirements, including having a job, and are accepted, a care plan is developed which looks at their ability to pay for services, which will be augmented by the HPI wellness financial aid.
The plan focuses on injury, illness, and disease prevention, and HPI coordinates care exclusively with fitness, nutrition, and mental health care professionals.
“They may have one, they may have two, they may have all three types of services,” she says.
In addition, once in the program, they are taught how to provide for themselves financially.
Participants go through the program for a minimum of three months.
“It’s almost like going to college except you’re going to learn to take care of yourself,” Auld says. “We want people to be independent … we don’t want people to rely on these services to live and be a good provider for their family.”
An added benefit to participation is improved family involvement; because participants are healthier, they’re more active with their family.
JONDALY ORTIZ BONES is a great example.
Bones had hypothyroidism, a condition involving the thyroid gland, and was facing either having spinal surgery or running the risk of not walking again.
She could hardly move or lift or play with the youngest of her three children.
She was referred to HPI from Wilmington Health, Auld says, entirely for weight loss.
Bones began the program in January and has since lost 50 pounds and is still losing weight.
Her mobility’s greatly improved. She’s strengthened her core through exercise and now no longer needs surgery.
She attributes much of the positive change to portion control and exercise. Bones has graduated from the program but is now in training to help others at HPI learn about and practice good nutrition in addition to being self-employed.
The impacts come in other forms, too.
Bones bought her first-ever home.
“They’ve become so efficient in life that it’s inevitable that they improve their family and work life,” Auld says.
To date, HPI has served fourteen people through its clinical wellness program and student learning. They plan to increase this number as well as the number of referrals and partners.
“We have a long way to go but we’re definitely expanding,” Auld says.
“They are amazing,” Bones says of the people with whom she’s come in contact through HPI. “They are always focused on you, with everything in your life, not just food and nutrition.”
To view more of photographer Terah Wilson’s work, go to terahwilson.com.
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