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Dome - A healthy partnership

September 2011

A healthy partnership

Date: September 16, 2011

Architectural plan of the a community teaching garden

When Paul Gleichauf read about Howard County Library System’s plans to create a community teaching garden focusing on healthy lifestyles, he knew that he had the perfect connection. With Howard County General Hospital already offering classes on wellness and nutrition, it seemed “a natural fit for the hospital and the library to join together on health education,” says Gleichauf, the hospital’s senior vice president.

At Gleichauf’s suggestion, hospital and library representatives met regularly throughout 2010 to brainstorm and envision how a partnership between the two entities might take shape. The result was not only collaboration on the teaching garden, which opens this December at the system’s new Miller branch, but the teaming of two community organizations with shared missions and goals.

Called Well & Wise, the partnership will promote healthy choices in the county through a number of avenues, including collaborative classes and events, health screenings and wellness initiatives. It also aspires to bring together key health care decision makers in the county to further the initiative’s goals.

The partnership’s first component, the Well & Wise blog (, was launched and celebrated with a party in early May. More than 100 people attended, including other Howard County blog writers, blog readers and traditional media. Both the library and hospital contribute to the blog with regular posts about health issues, related events, reviews of health-related materials and discussion of current health topics.

“Thus far, our blog has included a wide variety of topics, such as diabetes management, tips from the farmer’s market chef and advice on how to safely handle your medications,” says Mary Catherine Cochran, a senior communications manager at HCGH who manages the hospital’s end of the blog. “We utilize writers from both of our organizations, as well as guest writers from the community.”

This month, the partnership will begin actively recruiting other health care and community wellness organizations for membership. The partnership is working with the Mall in Columbia and other community partners to launch the Mall Miler walkers program—expected to begin in November—that also will include regular blood pressure screenings, talks and seminars, and programs targeted to seniors, new mothers and other specific demographics.  

—Sharon Sopp