At Canyon Ranch Institute, a short quote on the wall of our offices serves as a call to action. One of our CRI team members heard it at a reunion many years ago, and it stuck with us. It is: “Friends are medicine.”
The 55-year-old woman who said these words—we’ll call her Maria—went on to explain that because of her experiences with the Canyon Ranch Institute Life Enhancement Program with Urban Health Plan in the South Bronx, she had changed her life for the better. One of the best parts of her life was that she now regarded friendships as key to her well-being.
This approach was new to Maria, who had previously thought of medicine—as you may think of it right now—as something you put inside your body to help you manage a short-term health problem such as a headache, or a chronic illness such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
Maria shared her happy philosophy at a 2009 reunion of the participants in the South Bronx’s CRI Life Enhancement Program. The CRI Life Enhancement Program has a long track record for successfully helping people in low-income areas become healthier.
Canyon Ranch Institute is led by some of the world’s top scientists—including two U.S. Surgeons General—and we emphasize measuring health changes. Those measures include markers that can help indicate whether a person is at a high risk for diseases and problems like a heart attack or diabetes. Markers include blood pressure, lipid profiles, body weight, and ability to exercise for certain periods of time.
The improvements that I hear about the most from CRI Life Enhancement Program participants, however, aren’t measured in numbers on a chart or on a bathroom scale. Graduates talk about feeling connected to a community or finding a focus outside themselves. That feeling of being someone who matters happens when people experience—sometimes for the first time in their lives—what it is like to have friends.
True friendship is often described as what it feels like to be able to balance helping and being helped by another person or people. Help and support from friends come in many forms—a hug when we’re feeling lonely, a celebratory moment when we’ve succeeded at a goal, or a smile of recognition when a friend is finally able to do something that wasn’t easy and was also worth succeeding at—whether it’s a two-mile walk or being able to pay the rent on time for a whole year.
The CRI Life Enhancement Program in Savannah is offered to patients of Curtis V. Cooper Primary Health Care, Inc. through the CRISP partnership between Canyon Ranch Institute and Connect Savannah and Charles H. and Rosalie Morris. Recently, the first group of Savannah’s CRI Life Enhancement Program graduates gathered at the Charles H. Morris Center for a reunion.
Graduates have been through a life-changing experience together, which included learning how to exercise, losing weight, changing how they eat (a little less fat, a little more vegetables), discovering yoga and other relaxation techniques, and so much more. Across all of the places where people have graduated from the CRI Life Enhancement Program, reunions like this one in Savannah are happening—and for good reason. The reunions are an important part of helping graduates maintain their healthy choices and changes—forever.
Jennifer Cabe is Executive Director and Board Member of Canyon Ranch Institute.
If you are interested in participating in the CRI Life Enhancement Program at Curtis V. Cooper Primary Health Care, contact 912-443-3264 or