I’m here with one of Washington State’s CHIP program directors, Christine Pfeiffer, PA-C.
What is the CHIP program?
The CHIP program is a community-based health education program to help prevent and reverse heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, weight problems, and other lifestyle-related diseases that plague our country. CHIP, or Coronary Health Improvement Project, meets four nights a week for four weeks, and we start a new program every six months. It is designed to give people practical instructions on how to change eating and exercise habits. There are local CHIP chapters scattered all throughout the country in every state.
There are two health screenings–one at the beginning and one at the end–so participants can see their progress. Then at the conclusion of the month-long program we have a graduation ceremony with family and friends in attendance–and lots of food! We love food!
Who are your clients?
Basically, the program is open to anyone who wants to improve their health. We find that most of the people that come already have health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, weight problems, and other lifestyle-related diseases. But there are some people that come haven’t already developed these problems so they can prevent these problems from happening in the first place.
The program is suited for everyone — if you already have problems or for prevention down the road. We believe in the time-tested adage: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
What is a typical week like?
We meet Monday – Thursday between 6:30 and 8:45 pm. Each night of the program starts with a healthy meal and a cooking demonstration followed by a Clinical Rounds section where participants ask health questions to a local physician. And then we watch an informative, entertaining scientific health video presentation by Dr. Hans Diehl. An entertaining health lecture? Yes! Dr. Diehl is a dynamic speaker with a great sense of humor! So not only are we learning a lot, but we are having fun, too! Oftentimes people are literally sitting on the edge of their seats and can’t wait to hear what’s next!
Afterwards, we have a time for Q&A about the presentation. Then we have a physical therapist come in and lead us out in exercises and stretching to promote the importance of exercise.
Is this your full-time career?
No, I do this in my free time. CHIP is a volunteer-driven organization, so all of us that are involved are volunteers. During the day I’m a Family Practice Physician Assistant.
How did you get involved with the CHIP program?
I was first exposed to it in PA school in Nebraska. One of my professors had a lot of health issues and somehow heard about it and lost a ton of weight. And he brought Hans Diehl, CHIP founder, to one of our classes one day. That is when I first heard of it, but I didn’t do anything with it at the time.
When I started practicing Family Medicine here in Washington a few years ago, I saw so many people suffering from lifestyle-related diseases. I felt helpless, because medications didn’t cure these diseases, but just masked the symptoms. So that’s when I first remembered the CHIP program I was exposed to years earlier.
So what are some of the results you’ve seen?
In our last class of 44 participants in April, the average weight loss per person was 7 lbs in 4 weeks! And one couple in the class had a cholestrol drop of 70 points [ideal cholestrol is less than 160]. There are so many success stories!
One lady in our October 2006 class came in with a lot of pain and could barely walk with the assistance of a walker. In the course of the one month program she was able to walk normally without any assistance with a lot less pain.
Also, a lot of people are able to go off medications for blood pressure and cholestrol (under the supervision of a physician) because of the changes they made to their lifestyle. Usually within the first 2 weeks, most people report reduction in arthritis pain. Everyone says they have more energy. There are so many more success stories that I could share!
Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule.
No problem! I just want to do what I can to help people live happier, healthier lives. Come visit our website and feel free to email me [ed: listed below], I’d be more than happy to talk with you.
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One reply on “Interview with a CHIP director”
A great community project