Author Archives: Tom Gibbons

Arizona Heart Walk - AZ Business Magazine January/February 2012

Arizona Heart Walk Encourages Businesses, Individuals To Lead Healthy Lifestyle

Achieving corporate health: American Heart Association’s Arizona Heart Walk encourages businesses, individuals to change the way they think about their health

Richard Schulz, CEO of HealthSouth in Scottsdale and chairman of the American Heart Association’s Arizona Heart Walk, knows a healthy lifestyle doesn’t happen by accident.

It takes work.

And something else.

“You have to make it fun,” Schulz says.

In his chairman duties, Schulz meets with representatives from companies to participate and to secure sponsorships for the Heart Walk.

The Heart Walk is a non-competitive 5K walk/run and 1-mile walk at Tempe Town Lake. The event, in its 20th year, celebrates those who have made lifestyle changes and encourages others to make changes to feel better and to live longer.

It also serves as the Phoenix chapter’s of the American Heart Association’s major fundraiser, spokeswoman Jessica Brown says. The goal this year is to raise $900,000 for research, outreach and education, Brown said.

About 15,000 people are expected to take part in the walk.

Large health-related employers tend to big players in the event, Brown says. For example, Banner Health, which runs 14 hospitals, three research centers and other properties in Arizona, had nearly 1,000 registered Heart Walk participants in 2011. Catholic Healthcare West, which operates three hospitals in the area, had 1,023.

Besides the walk, Schulz encourages companies to make a commitment to making becoming fit companies.

As part of that commitment, HealthSouth, Banner and Catholic Healthcare West have engaged in a program with the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association called “My Heart. My Life.” The program is designed to change the way Americans think about their health. It’s about embracing an overall healthier lifestyle to improve cardiovascular health.

This movement is a national rallying cry for change, Brown said, through simple behavior adjustments that help people feel better and live longer. The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association has developed a number of activities under the umbrella of My Heart. My Life. Among them: increased health education, advocacy for better public policy in important health areas such as anti-smoking laws, and helping communities find ways to eat healthier and stay physically active.

“We see examples every day at work,” Schulz says. But other kinds of companies are also climbing on the wellness bandwagon, he says.

One such company is Scottsdale Insurance. A subsidiary of Nationwide Insurance, Scottsdale Insurance specializes in excess and surplus policies as well as specialty insurance.

If you run a fund-raising golf tournament with a car as a prize for hitting a hole-in-one, Scottsdale Insurance will write a policy so that one lucky shot doesn’t submarine your charitable intentions.

Scottsdale Insurance employs about 1,400. Most are in the Valley, but the company has agents across the country.

The parent company encourages community involvement. Pete Harper, vice president of finance and CFO, was drawn to the American Heart Association because some relatives had suffered from cardiovascular problems. The Heart Walk promoted awareness of the need for fitness at the company, which has increased.

“Now, you’ll see groups of walkers at lunchtime,” he says.

Harper said that as the company became more health conscious, he did, too.

“Before, about the only thing I did was play racquetball,” he says.

A healthier workforce is more productive and experiences lower absenteeism, Harper says. Although some of the benefits are difficult to quantify, others are not.

“We’ve seen slower growth in our health care-related costs than other companies,” he says.

And heart health is at the heart of the matter. Heart disease was the No. 1 killer in the U.S. in 2009 (the most recent year that figures are available), the Centers for Disease Control reported. Stroke was No. 4.

“Heart disease is an area we have some control over,” HealthSouth’s Schulz says. “There are some hereditary factors, but there’s a great deal of literature that shows we can reduce risk with lifestyle changes.”

The good news is mortality rates from heart disease started declining around 1950 and have continued to decline, CDC figures show.

The bad news is there are some alarming developments that if they go unchecked would reverse that trend. The American Heart Association reports that about one-third of children in the United States are overweight or obese. Most experts believe childhood obesity increases the risk of heart disease and stroke in adulthood.

The American Heart Association has established a standard of ideal cardiovascular health. Right now, 1 percent of U.S. population meets that standard. Among children 12-19, the percentage is zero.

And many people are kidding themselves about the healthy lifestyle they lead, Brown said. In an American Heart Association survey, 39 percent of Americans questioned thought they were in ideal cardiovascular health.

The American Heart Association set a goal to in improve cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent by 2020 and came up with My Heart. My Life.

The idea is to make simple changes that can make a big difference, such as eating healthier, exercising 30 minutes a day, controlling cholesterol and blood pressure. The organization offers online trackers for walkers and, of course, an application for smart phone users to create walking paths.

Education and awareness are important, but for a company to encourage its employees to pay more attention to cardiovascular fitness, a dose of healthy competition can boost motivation, Schulz says.

“You can have different groups compete and see who can lose the most weight,” Schulz says.

Making wellness enjoyable is key. Sharon Opitz, wellness director at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, says the wellness program at the Catholic Healthcare West facility includes zumba and yoga sessions, a farmer’s market and cooking demonstration classes.

Catholic Healthcare West tries to incorporate spirituality and stress reduction in its wellness programs, says Robert Lichvar, wellness director at Chandler Regional Medical Center and Mercy Gilbert Medical Center.

20th Heart Walk

When: Feb. 25 at 9 a.m. At 10 a.m., the Heart Healthy Festival begins, and features live music, interactive booths and giveaways.
Where: Tempe Beach Park
Cost: Free, though participants qualify for a T-shirt by raising $100
Purpose: Supports the American Heart Association’s research programs and initiatives that promote the prevention, treatment and better patient care in the areas of cardiovascular disease, the leading killer in the United States.
Participants: About 15,000 people participate each year
Fundraising goal for 2012: $900,000
Where does the money go: To fund research, educational programs and community outreach
Who are some of the biggest corporate participants: Banner Health, Catholic Healthcare West, Scottsdale Insurance, HealthSouth

Arizona Business Magazine January/February 2012


Superstition Vistas - AZ Business Magazine April 2008

Superstition Vistas: A New Master Planned Community

Golf has played an important role in residential development in Arizona for years. Maybe it’s time the planners, developers and builders took a mulligan.

Superstition Vistas, a 275-square-mile area in northern Pinal County about 30 miles east of Phoenix, represents a chance for a sort of developmental “do over.”

If we knew then what we know now, would metropolitan Phoenix look different? Would, say, the western half of Mesa have more job centers? Would the downtowns of various municipalities be closer to the geographic center of each instead of at one end where the town first developed? Would our freeways and other transportation be routed differently?

With questions such as those in mind, a team of consultants has started developing models for Superstition Vistas that will guide the development of the area over the next 50 years or more. The area eventually is expected to be home to about 1 million people.

Except for one section — the area known as Lost Dutchman Heights, which was auctioned in December 2006 — the Arizona State Land Department owns the entire tract. Superstition Vistas is about as close to a blank canvas as it gets in the development game.

The consulting team will look at finding a better use for the land, better use of water and lowering emissions for greenhouse gases.

“We’re not really reinventing the wheel,’’ says Robert Grow, whose consulting firm will lead the research effort. “We’re trying to tap into knowledge that’s already there.”

At the heart of what Grow calls “the visioning process” is the idea of sustainability. There’s also an effort to make it easier for the Superstition Vistas residents to find a balance in their lives, to be able to “work, live and play” — as the current development catchphrase goes — without hopping in a car and taking it out on a freeway.

Grow’s team includes Harris Interactive, the well-known polling and research company from Rochester, N.Y.; EDAW, a San Francisco-based environmental and regional planning firm; Fregonese Associates, a Portland, Ore., land planning company; and Robert Charles Lesser & Co., based in Washington, D.C., which offers expertise in real estate strategic planning and market intelligence.

Grow is the head of Robert Grow Consulting in Salt Lake City. He has been involved in regional vision planing for more than 40 metro areas, including New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Grow says all the firms were eager to participate, adding the project has the potential to show the world new ideas about how to make development work better with the environment.

“It’s unique,’’ he says. “There’s nothing like this that I know of.”

While Superstition Vistas may be larger than other master-planned communities, and its completion time frame longer, the concept is not new to Arizona.

“One difference is the others, such as McCormick Ranch, were mostly residential,’’ says Jay Butler, head of Arizona State University Polytechnic’s Realty Studies program.

One of the key elements behind Superstition Vistas is that jobs will be available for residents. Unfortunately, you can’t just build space and expect employers will come.

“It’s easier said than done,’’ Butler says. “You have to salt the mine a bit.”

Another challenge is to come up with a framework that will make sense economically, says Roc Arnett, president and CEO of the East Valley Partnership.

“It’s not just what people say they want but what they can afford and what they’ll buy,’’ he says.

Harris Interactive is spearheading efforts to ascertain what Arizona residents would like in an urban area. The consulting group is also creating a database about land use, water use and energy efficiency.

In May there will be an event involving the major stakeholders and the public. Grow stresses that the public will have input throughout the process.

The consulting team will eventually come up with scenarios for the steering committee. The steering committee is made up of the State Land Department, Pinal County, the town of Queen Creek, the cities of Apache Junction and Mesa, and others. Chuck Backus, the former provost at what is now Arizona State University Polytechnic, is chairman of the steering committee, which is facilitated by the East Valley Partnership and Pinal Partnership.

The municipalities that border Superstition Vistas have all made noise about making it part of their planning areas.

“I have asked everyone to stand down on any annexations until we come up with a plan,’’ says Mark Winkleman, the state land commissioner.

So it may be years before it’s decided whether Superstition Vistas is part of existing municipalities, its own city or some combination.

Since he came to the Land Department in 2003, Winkleman has been protective of Superstition Vistas. He has called the 176,000-acre area the most valuable asset of the more than 9 million acres the department oversees.

The department’s mission is to use the acreage set aside in a trust by the federal government in 1912 when Arizona became a state. Money generated through the land — by sale, lease or royalties — goes to fund K-12 education in Arizona and other state-supported entities.

In order to realize the full value of Superstition Vistas and ensure that any master plan is followed, Winkleman believes the department needs to operate with slightly different laws. He has pushed for reform to give the department flexibility in how it sells the land.

In 2006, there was a ballot measure that would have allowed that flexibility and created more oversight for the department. The Republican and Democratic parties, teachers, environmentalists and major news media backed the measure. Homebuilders and cattlemen backed a competing proposition. Voters rejected both measures.

“We’re operating under laws,’’ Winkleman says, “that were fine at the time of statehood.’’

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