Posts Tagged ‘Pa.’

Community Life Can Make You Healthier

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

By Shawn Dell Joyce

In his recent book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell cites a study that proves a strong localized community actually improves your health.

The study is centered on Roseto, Pa., a small community comprised mainly of immigrants from a small Italian village also named Roseto. This village attracted international attention in 1950 when it was found to have the lowest rate of heart disease in our nation.

The study, led by physician Stewart Wolf, studied the entire population of 2,000 people and discovered that the death rate from disease was 35 percent lower than the rest of the country. Moreover there was no suicide, alcoholism, drug addiction, and very little crime. No one was on welfare, and no one had peptic ulcers.

The Wolf study found that Roseto residents ate pretty much what other Americans were eating, deriving 41 percent of their calories from fat, with many struggling with obesity. Many were heavy smokers. But the difference between the people of Roseto and virtually everyone else was not diet, exercise, or a genetic predisposition to good health. It had nothing to do with the land or the water, but had everything to do with the town itself.

What these immigrants brought with them to rural Pennsylvania – Roseto is about 50 miles south of Port Jervis – was an “old world” sense of community. Researchers found that the people of Roseto made the time to stop and chat with each other on the street. They cooked for one another in backyard parties, and held friendship as a high priority. Extended families lived under the same roof, with elderly parents commanding respect. There were 22 civic groups serving the small population.

Roseto had a healthy and prosperous localized community where everyone knew each other, and were all available to lend a helping hand when things got rough. Wealth was never flaunted, and those falling on hard times were never shunned. The villagers had woven a social fabric of interconnected relationships where each thread was valued and needed for the good of the whole.

As a result, individuals had a sense of belonging and well-being. Their efforts were valued, and all were considered equally important to the community whether they were the mayor or the garbage men.

Sound familiar? Yes, many of our Wallkill Valley villages and hamlets could pass for Roseto. We are blessed with strong local economies and a social fabric that is tightly woven with historic families, and the recently relocated. We have enough farms to feed our population, and a picturesque place to live.

When we look at individuals in our community, they are each unique and beautiful, but what really makes a work of art is seeing each individual brushstroke as part of a whole painting. As an artist, I often have to take a few steps back from my work to see the painting as a whole. As community members, let’s collectively regard the lovely tapestry of friends, neighbors, and small businesses, and ask, “What can I do to make it better?” Then realize that the effort you exert to build a stronger community is also good for your health, your family, and the well-being of us all.