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Wellness Center a benefit to Highlands, community

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Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003

Highlands Hospital, one of Connellsville's greatest community assets, has slowly but surely gotten stronger over recent years. A big key has been an approach that emphasizes development of unique services that have proven effective in garnering new revenue sources.

The hospital will be able to continue in that direction, thanks, in part, to federal funding that will allow for development of a new Wellness Center. The John P. Murtha Wellness Center is named after U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Johnstown, who was instrumental in securing a total of $700,000 ($200,000 from recently announced 2004 appropriations) in federal funding for the center.

Funds will be used to refurbish the building that will house the center. In conjunction with the project, the Windber Research Institute will provide fitness equipment and conduct research on a multi-year study on the impact of exercise on personal health.

The facility is needed in a community that has shown high rates of diabetes, heart disease and obesity among its residents. As such, it is appropriate that Windber has chosen Connellsville as the host community for its study on exercise and wellness.

The center "will enable our community members to improve their health while participating in these programs," commented Michelle Cunningham, Highlands Hospital chief executive officer.

For area residents, the presence of a state-of-the-art wellness facility is important. It will benefit residents and will build on efforts to make Highlands more viable. The research project is important, too, not just in Connellsville and the Fay-West area, but all over the country, where personal health as a whole seems to be on the decline.

The program is important to the community in a broader sense. The presence of Highlands Hospital makes Connellsville a stronger community. Continued efforts to strengthen the hospital can only help in efforts to attract residents and businesses to the area.

We applaud Murtha's efforts to bring the Wellness Center and research program to Connellsville. And we applaud the continued efforts of Highlands Hospital to remain a vital part of the community and a key to its future.

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