UNE students research impact of holistic health program at community day center

Assistant Clinical Professor Collyn Baeder (left) and Kassidy Towne '18 present at the 2018 HWOS Day of Scholarship.
Assistant Clinical Professor Collyn Baeder (left) and Kassidy Towne '18 present at the 2018 HWOS Day of Scholarship.

As part of an internship course in the spring semester of 2018, Health, Wellness, & Occupational Studies (HWOS) alumni Kassidy Towne '18 and Laurie Atkinson '18 led a pilot research study titled "Evaluating the Impact of Holistic Health Programming on the Subjective Well-Being of Adults with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities in a Community-Based Day Center" under the faculty advisement of HWOS Assistant Clinical Professor Collyn J. Baeder, M.P.H. 

The research study took place at the Thatcher Brook Center (TBC) in Biddeford, which provides holistic community-based day programming, vocational rehabilitation, and career planning for adults with disabilities, as well as support of school-to-work transition for local high school students. The purpose of the study was to collect data regarding the clients' experiences with the TBC's health-related programs and subsequent impacts on their subjective well-being. The specific TBC programs being evaluated included holistic health offerings of therapeutic massage, Reiki, and the use of essential oils (programs which are provided to TBC clients on a weekly basis). 

Twelve TBC clients participated in the study. Towne and Atkinson collected data between April and May 2018, which included data derived from focus groups held at the very beginning and very end of the study as well as weekly quantitative data collected before and after the TBC programs to measure impacts on the clients' subjective well-being. Focus group questions aimed to gauge the clients' perceptions of "health" and "being healthy," both at the onset and again at the close of the study, to gain an understanding of their baseline perceptions as well as any changes following the weeks of TBC programming. More focused qualitative questions were also included each week immediately following the holistic health programs. 

Given the small sample size, qualitative data proved more enlightening than the quantitative data. After the weekly programs, when asked about their experiences, clients predominantly reported feeling "happy," "good" and "great" and gaining "energy" and "confidence." More revealing quotes were expressed at the focus groups. One client shared, “Coming to the Thatcher Brook Center builds up my confidence with talking to a lot more people than I did and I’m breaking out of my shell." Additional reflections included comments on the healthy foods provided by TBC. One participant noted, “I leave here with a smile on my face.” Another study participant said of Thatcher Brook's holistic impact, "It affects me both physically and mentally," adding, "I like coming here and getting out there in the community while also working out." 

Towne and Baeder co-presented about the research study to local community members at the TBC's Holistic Health Fair and to the UNE community at the spring 2018 HWOS Day of Scholarship. Research at the TBC will be continued in the fall semester of 2018, led by more HWOS internship students under the advisement of Baeder. Research protocols are being updated to more finely assess and document the clients' experiences and more precisely measure the programs' impacts.

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