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Well-positioned to Support the Well-Being of Our Napa Community


There are many lessons that can be taken from the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the most important is the focus on community health and well-being. As we turn a corner and come to what is hopefully the end of the pandemic, both the mental and physical effects will be long-lasting.

The reality is each one of us has struggled in the last 16 months to one degree or another. Job loss and economic worries, the stress of remote work and classrooms, worries about the health of our loved ones and the responsibilities of their care have stretched too many to the breaking point. Our caregivers -- nurses, doctors and health professionals -- have been pushed beyond mere physical exhaustion and are struggling with the mental health impacts of responding to COVID-19. These are coupled with the unique challenges in our community with what has become an annual wildfire season impacting the beautiful Napa Valley we call home, challenges that our community faces with resilience.

old hospitalAdventist Health St. Helena has been here through it all, remaining as a resource that is responsive to our community’s needs to ensure we provide the right care. During the pandemic, that included providing life-saving care for those most affected by the virus as well as going out into the community and providing COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. As we come out on the other side of the pandemic, never has there been a greater need for a focus on well-being, which allows us to double down on our roots.

Our well-being work goes back to the start of the Seventh-day Adventist Church with Ellen White, who was a revolutionary in the late 1800s, promoting her counsel on health. While most physicians were using drugs like strychnine and arsenic to treat patients, White advocated for a balanced life, balanced diet, pure air and water, a strong sense of community and exercise. She believed that physical health would lead to a vigorous mind and vice versa.

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg would study these practices at the Battle Creek Sanitarium established in Battle Creek, Michigan. The 600-bed facility became a retreat for thousands of patients, including Thomas Edison, Amelia Earhart and President William Howard Taft, who was also the 100,000th patient. The facility’s success led to the creation of the St. Helena Rural Health Retreat and more than 300 others like it around the world.

Dr. Merritt G. Kellogg, the half-brother of John Harvey Kellogg, helped open the original St. Helena facility on June 7, 1878. Demand was instantaneous with 14 people showing up the first day to fill only 12 rooms. The facility soon expanded, and the St. Helena Hospital and Health Center was born.

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Over the course of almost a century-and-a-half in operation, the hospital has evolved, grown and adapted to community needs. This includes a nursing school, detoxification and tobacco cessation programs and even a health food production facility, all while maintaining a focus on well-being.

We recently celebrated our 143rd anniversary of service to the Napa Valley with a commitment to whole-person care. This focus to help everyone experience a long and healthier life has never wavered. As the oldest continuously operating Adventist hospital in the world, we are still focused on promoting well-being and serving our community’s greatest needs. That is why we are excited for Adventist Health’s next chapter, catalyzed by the acquisition of Blue Zones, a pioneer in taking a systemic and environmental approach to improving the health of entire cities and communities.

Locally, we are no stranger to Blue Zones. Our work with the organization started in 2018 when we teamed up with local community leaders, stakeholders and members in Northern Napa County to form a coalition to establish the community as a certified Blue Zones Project. Initial projects include establishing safe routes to school as well as physicians writing prescriptions for outdoor activities instead of medication to help relieve high blood pressure and other conditions.

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The acquisition of Blue Zones allows us to reimagine our impact locally. While our primary work is currently in the North Valley, where we enjoy an established coalition, our goal is to bring in more communities as the program grows and eventually connect our whole region in one contiguous effort.

We are excited to embark on this journey to come full circle back to our roots as a health organization, and the path charted by Blue Zones will take us there. It will allow us to improve community well-being with a continued focus on our community’s needs. We look forward to having you on the journey with us as we focus on whole-person health and live out our mission to live God’s love by inspiring health, wholeness and hope in our community at a time when that could not be more important.

Dr. Steven Herber is the president of Adventist Health St. Helena.