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Holistic Health in WNY takes several forms

The New York State Health Foundation has plowed about $150 million into efforts to improve health care across the Empire State during the last 11 years, including better primary care, more access to mental health services and programs that support post-9/11 veterans.

Much of that money has been used to help treat chronic disease that crashed down on state residents, often the most vulnerable. But CEO David Sandman and his staff began to wonder two years ago whether their efforts might serve more people, and have a more meaningful impact, if the focus shifted upstream, to the causes of health and wellness challenges.

“Health happens not just in the doctor’s office,” Sandman said during a recent interview in Buffalo.

The foundation is among a growing number of health providers, payers and educators who seek to look at health care more holistically. They do so in the midst of an ever more costly U.S. health care system that accounts for nearly one-fifth of federal spending, roughly 75 percent of which flows to treatment of chronic illness – including diabetes, cardiopulmonary disease and some cancers – that in many cases are preventable.

“We’re not even working in the health system in some of our work,” says David Sandman CEO of the New York Health Foundation.

Holistic health seeks to understand root causes of disease as well as address symptoms. It is open to a variety of ways to address them, including traditional Western medicine. It depends on practitioners, communities and individuals to play key roles in health and wellness management.

“We’re not even working in the health system in some of our work,” Sandman said. “We’re working on food and physical activity. We’re not an education funder. We’re not an environmental funder. We are a health funder. So where’s that line? It’s all connected.”

Consider three ways the health foundation has looked at health in a more holistic way:

–  It has earmarked $4.5 million for a Healthy Neighborhoods Initiative in six of the poorest communities in the state. That includes more than $600,000 for the Create a Healthier Niagara Falls Collaborative, a grassroots effort to improve access to health care, healthy food and fitness in a city where one in three residents lives in poverty – a percentage slightly higher than Buffalo.

– It has spent nearly $5 million statewide during the last two years to help patient “consumers” get a better sense of costs, test results, treatments and decisions made about their medical care.

– It has given grants with a mind on environmental and safety factors that impact health. One example: $10,000 to help pay for a community room and police substation at a Syracuse park that became more desolate after a gang-related homicide.

Here are three ways those in Western New York are viewing health in a broader context.


The remarkable recovery of a cancer patient helped physical therapist Sarah Capodagli understand the importance of holistic health care. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Physical therapist Sarah Capodagli had a “pretty traditional view of health” when she started work in a cancer unit. “I had one patient who was doing extremely well in her treatment,” Capodagli said. “She had a tumor and it was shrinking. She was young. Everyone was very surprised at how well she was doing. She told me during our initial evaluation that one of the most important things she had done for herself is change her diet.

Capodagli, owner of CorrEra Physical Therapy, fulfilled a professional dream this month when she opened the latest wellness center in Western New York. The Fountain ( is a 6,000-square-foot former day-care complex on Sheridan Drive, near Harris Hill Road, in Clarence.

A collection of offices and quiet spaces fill the new center, including Capodagli’s, which specializes in pelvic floor rehab and core wellness for men and women. Nutritional consultant Robbie Raugh sees clients here, as do Tara Withey and Beth Cary, two of the top doulas in the region; Sharon Bryk, a licensed esthetician with a certification in oncology esthetics; massage therapists Theresa Hoffman and Teresa DeLabio; project investor Marybeth Whiting, a Del Terra essential oil consultant; life coach Maribeth Ferry; and Colby Jagielo, owner of Pure Organics Salon, a salon that uses natural, organic, ammonia-free products for hair, nail and skin care. DeLabio also leads Christian-based Holy Yoga classes in the 1,000-square-foot “movement studio.”

Colby Mae Jagielo, owner/stylist at Pure Organics Salon at The Fountain Wellness Center in Clarence, uses natural, organic, ammonia-free products in her new venture.
(Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Eco-friendly flooring, inspirational signs, and a fountain in the foyer help set the tone. Two grow boxes sprout herbs on a table in a new kitchen that features a reverse osmosis water system and a high-efficiency induction range. Much of the work – including the artwork – was done by local small business owners like themselves. Birthing classes, cooking classes and more fitness classes are planned.

The Fountain joins more than a dozen wellness centers in the region, including Complete Wellness Arts & Science Center in Buffalo, Destination Wellness in Hamburg and Creative Wellness in East Aurora.

Buffalo Wellness bridges gap between traditional, holistic health

Capodagli believes she and her tenants have found the sweet spot of holistic health - not too traditional and not on the fringe of alternative care. At different times, she said, you need different blends of both.

“So many people feel lost, especially in the health care system,” she said. “We may not have every provider here that someone might need, but our desire truly is to be a place where we can help direct you to someone who might be appropriate, so you don’t feel quite so lost.

“When you look up the definition of holistic care, it’s taking care of all aspects of your well-being. It doesn’t mean that you do something weird. It means you take care of your body from an emotional standpoint, a spiritual standpoint, obviously a physical and mental standpoint, and socially, as well. It means that you’re connected.”

Business owners from The Fountain will be among vendors from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the sixth annual Holistic Health Expo of Western New York. The free family event will give visitors a taste of a wide range of holistic health options including massage therapy, essential oils, natural birthing and pet care, hypnotherapy and Qigong.


The number of Double Up Food Bucks sites have exploded since 2014, the start of the program to provide a dollar-for-dollar match on fresh fruits and vegetables to those on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, the former food stamp program. Low-income people and local farmers have benefited. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

The New York State Health Foundation entered the nutrition sphere to help stem the diabetes epidemic. It’s first goal was to train at least one-quarter of primary care doctors in the state to better identify and educate those with diabetes. “We reached that goal,” Sandman said, “then we started to move from that and say, ‘It’s great to treat diabetes well but isn’t it better to prevent diabetes in the first place?’” So the foundation steered grant money to a national diabetes prevention program that in Western New York is offered at Buffalo Niagara YMCA branches.

More recently, the foundation has committed $500,000 toward a $1.2 million effort to expand the Double Up Food Bucks program. The Western New York-based Field & Fork Network runs the program, which provides a dollar-for-dollar match, up to $20 a day, for those who purchase non-prepared foods at participating farmers’ markets. The program tokens must be used to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.

“Families are eating more healthy food as a result of the program,” said Lisa Tucker French, cofounder and executive director of the nonprofit Field & Fork. “Ultimately, we’re making fresh, local food more accessible and more affordable.”

The program started at seven farm markets in the Buffalo Niagara region three years ago. This summer, Double Up Food Bucks are available to those on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at more than 90 sites in a dozen counties in the Buffalo and Rochester regions. Foodlink in Rochester, and its mobile market fleet, have made up much of that expansion.

Double Up Food Bucks ( has provided families with more than 280,000 pounds of food since it started. In surveys, 90 percent of shoppers report eating more fruits and veggies, including for snacks, and the vast majority say they have becoming more comfortable preparing fresh food dishes.

The more than $445,000 is sales have helped support 185 farmers who participate in the program, as well as their farm market colleagues who sell dairy, meat and other food products, French said. Much of the latest grant money – more than half of which comes from the federal budget – helped fuel the expansion, which will soon include two health-minded corner stores on the East Side and, in the next two years, one of the region’s grocery chains in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Rochester and Syracuse.

“Our goal for the long-term is to get it into communities all across the state,” French said, “and the good news is that nutrition incentive programs have bipartisan support.”


Free outdoor fitness classes will last another week at Canalside but other low-cost fitness classes will linger for weeks and months. Physical activity is an important part of a holistic health and wellness strategy. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

Researchers at the University of Missouri School of Medicine recently reported that the rate of adult female recommended leisure-time physical activity – at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week – rose 50 percent in a Brazilian state that offered free outdoor fitness classes.

Western New Yorkers haven’t had to go to Brazil this summer to take advantage of such opportunities. Free outdoor fitness classes at Canalside will come to a close during the next week, but several other free and low-cost classes will continue to exist both indoors and outdoors in the coming months. See a list of remaining outdoor classes below and indoor classes in the Refresh Calendar on Page 15.

“Fitness at Canalside has become a summer tradition in Western New York, drawing over 20,000 participants in just over a year and a half,” said Kate Schrum, a community relations specialist with BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, which sponsors the group classes. As summer comes to a close, she said, residents in the region can trade in their sneakers for skates the company sponsored Ice at Canalside.


WNY Refresh Walk and Wellness Fair,  9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Ellicott Creek Park, 1 Ellicott Creek Drive, Town of Tonawanda. Events will include a 9:15 a.m. Exercise Like the Animals fitness class for kids of all ages; a 10 a.m. family wellness walk; and an 11 a.m. group fitness class by Shannon’s Fitness & Dance. Free.

Slow Roll Buffalo. 6:30 p.m. Mondays, starting at various sites through October, including the Groove Lounge, 1210 Broadway, next week. Roughly 10-mile guided ride for all ages and abilities. First-time riders should register at Free.

Walking on Wednesday. Brisk, 30-minute walk at noon Wednesday, Kaminski Park outside Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Elm and Carlton streets. Presented by the Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo.

Goat Island Adventure walk. 7:30 p.m. Friday, Goat Island, Niagara Falls State Park. To register and for info, call 282-5154. Free.


Jada Blitz Body Boot Camp. 7 p.m. Tuesday, Canalside.


BollyX. 11 a.m. Saturday, next Saturday, Canalside. Bollywood-inspired dance-fitness program.

Bellydance. 9 a.m. Sunday, Canalside.

Hip Hop Cardio. 11 a.m. Sunday, Canalside.

ConfiDANCE. 6 p.m. Monday, Canalside. Jazz fitness class.

Barre Centric. 7 p.m. Monday, Canalside. Body sculpting with ballet, yoga and Pilates fitness exercises.

Everyone Can Dance. 10 a.m. Tuesday, Canalside. Dance fitness and games for all ages.

Zumba. 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Canalside.


Little Gym of Williamsville fitness. 10 a.m. Friday, Canalside. Designed for children ages 4 months to 12 years old.


HEAL Bflo Yoga. 10 a.m. Saturdays through September, Bidwell Park, Elmwood Avenue at Bidwell Parkway.

Yoga on the Green. 9 a.m. Sundays into October, Kenmore Farmers Market, Village Green at 2919 Delaware Ave. For more info, visit Suggested donation $5 to $15.

Qigong. 9 a.m. Sunday and Sept. 3, Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve, 93 Honorine Drive, Cheektowaga. $8.

OWM Yoga Downtown. 5:30 p.m. Monday, The Westin Buffalo, 250 Delaware Ave. $5. In case of rain, classes will be held at OWM Yoga Downtown studio, 235 S. Elmwood Avenue, Suite 120. Preregister at or drop in. Open to hotel guests and the public.

Love in Motion  Yoga. Vinyasa yoga, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Canalside.

Power Yoga Buffalo. 6 p.m. Friday, Canalside.


Garage kettlebell. 9 a.m. Saturday, next Saturday, Canalside.

Full Body Blast, By Harmony Fitness. 10 a.m. Saturday, next Saturday, Canalside.

Turbo Kick Live. 10 a.m. Sunday, Canalside.

SilverSneakers. Senior fitness by Sow it Now Fitness, 10 a.m. Monday, Canalside.

RevFit. 6 p.m. Monday, Canalside.

Pound Garage. 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Canalside.

Catalyst kickboxing. 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Canalside.

Josh & Friends. “Circuit training” exercise programs by Sow it Now Fitness to music for ambulatory teens and adults with developmental or intellectual disabilities, 10 a.m. Thursday, Canalside.

BAMF Ninja/Parkour. 7 p.m. Friday, Canalside.

Stand Up Paddleboard. 11 a.m. next Saturday, Canalside.


Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon

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