Mount Nittany Health’s commitment to community health is embodied by its mission statement: We are here to make people healthier. Every three years, Mount Nittany Health conducts a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) to understand the most pressing health and wellness concerns for the community. Obesity and diabetes were identified as priorities through the 2019 CHNA.
Chronic diseases, like obesity and diabetes, are the leading causes of death and disability across the nation. They are often preventable through reducing health risk behaviors like smoking and alcohol use, increased physical activity and good nutrition, improved stress management, and early detection of risk factors.
Specifically, residents listed obesity/overweight as their number two top health concern and health habits, such as diet and physical activity, as the number two top contributing factor to community health concerns. More than 1 in 4 adults in Centre County and more than 1 in 10 school-age children are obese. And almost three quarters of Centre County has an unhealthy weight when both obesity and overweight are accounted for. Obesity is associated with an increased risk of disease and mortality, as well as a reduced quality of life.
Mount Nittany Health added a weight management practice as another resource to address this community health concern, led by Paul Klink, MD, and Karen Cherinka, CRNP. Weight management is focused on the treatment, prevention, and causes of obesity. Providers work with patients to increase overall health—with diet, exercise, and behavior therapy—and promote healthy weight loss.
“Although we are the weight management practice, our highest priority is to improve the health and well-being of each individual. In that process of working collaboratively with each person, weight loss follows,” shares Dr. Klink. “Weight loss is not the primary focus, but occurs as a result of overall healthier living, achieving doable goals, and improving quality of life. Our job is to support and encourage this process, and to guide people to work on the things that really make a difference.”
After 20-some years in family practice, Dr. Klink pursued board certification in obesity medicine (and later also lifestyle medicine), which he has now practiced for the last decade. So many of the chronic conditions he was treating—diabetes, arthritis, asthma—came back to lifestyle and obesity.
Before patients are seen, they are asked to fill out a packet. “It’s really detailed,” he concedes, “but it really helps me to be very thorough with each person’s history, concerns, and struggles and allows me to design a pathway and plan that is comprehensive in addressing all aspects of that person’s care.”
Obesity doesn’t just come down to exercise and diet, although they are important pieces. Dr. Klink explains that there is a lot more going on: like medications, biology, and genetics. For instance, he shares that 25% of patients take a medication that is adverse to their weight and 10% of obesity cases are caused by medications.
“I point people to what really matters and doesn’t matter,” he shares. “Most weight loss programs are built on the notion of “All or Nothing”. You have to do everything right, all the time. Otherwise you fail. That might work for a while, but the problem is that a program like that is not sustainable. What is more important is how doable your efforts are—being good enough is more effective than perfection in the long term. It is extremely important to not feel deprived; none of us would continue something that makes us feel badly or deprived very long.”
Dr. Klink begins all new patient appointments by outlining four common advice items that collectively reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack, diabetes, and cancer by 78%: don’t smoke, average 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily, follow a healthy diet (5 servings of fruits and veggies combined per day, make half your grains whole grains, and limit red meat to three times per week), and have a BMI of 30 or less.
He then works with each patient to select something they feel is doable as a starting point and encourages small, reasonable goals. The change must always be something that will improve their health and be something they can keep up long term.
Dr. Klink’s philosophy of care is characterized by grace, kindness, and many small celebrations. “So often people don’t see the good things that happen, they don’t enjoy and see that because they’re always on to the next thing. There is so much guilt and sadness buried in this,” he says. “My job is to find the positives and really magnify them.”
The practice is patient driven. Support can be offered via in-person visits, telehealth, and/or messages, such as through the My Mount Nittany Health patient portal—and at the frequency that best makes sense for each individual. Care is coordinated with the patient’s primary care provider and any relevant specialists.
With lots of confusing and conflicting information circulating, it can be difficult to know how to go about weight loss. This practice is one resource in the toolbox for members of the community looking to achieve a healthy lifestyle and weight. Dr. Klink points to apps like MyFitnessPal and Lose It!, keeping a food journal, USDA My Plate tip sheets, and calories on menus as ways to be more aware and help make better choices. He sees his role as helping the community at large understand what is helpful and what is not helpful. And reminding people to be gracious with themselves and celebrate the seemingly small changes, because they make a big difference. They are what make us healthier.
Weight management is part of Mount Nittany Physician Group, located at 1850 Park Ave Suite 312 in State College. The office is currently accepting adult patients, 18 years and older who want to improve or maintain their weight. Patients can be referred by another provider or can self-refer.