You may have noticed a new face at the Wilton Family YMCA in recent months. Western Connecticut Health Network (WCHN) registered nurse Ellen Ryan has joined the YMCA as a wellness coach as part of the “Healthy Living Partnership” between WCHN and the Riverbrook Regional YMCA (of which the Wilton YMCA is a branch).

WCHN is anchored by three nationally-recognized hospitals–Norwalk Hospital, Danbury Hospital, and New Milford Hospital–with primary care offices throughout Fairfield, Litchfield, New Haven, and Putnam counties.

The Healthy Living Partnership was launched to promote and facilitate community-based health and wellness services with an eye on, and commitment to, prevention and combating chronic disease.

In her new role, Ryan is focused on connecting people with the preventative and chronic disease management programs currently offered at the YMCA, including but not limited to the LIVESTRONG program, the Parkinson’s Exercise Program, and Enhanced Fitness classes, as well as promoting principles of wellness through lifestyle changes such as weight loss, smoking cessation, stress management, and much more.

“My goal is to improve community health outcomes by helping people live healthier lives,” Ryan explains.

As a registered nurse, Ryan is well-equipped to inform and educate members of the community about the specific YMCA programs that could be beneficial to their situation, as well as facilitate access to WCHN services of which they might not be aware.

“In today’s digital age, it’s so beneficial to be onsite, making personal connections, and really putting a face to the partnership,” adds Ryan. “After I meet with people and get to know them, I can help start them on their journey to wellness by making personal recommendations. I can also suggest questions they might want to ask when they meet with their healthcare provider.”

With chronic disease affecting half of all Americans ─ and sending medical costs through the roof ─ organizations like the YMCA are seeking new solutions for stemming the tide. “Our mission is to build strong and healthy people.  But lifestyle change is difficult, and you need a strong group of partners to get it done,” says Robert McDowell, Riverbrook Regional YMCA‘s CEO. “This is a vital team effort to share health and wellness with the community while reducing the cost of healthcare.”

The Wilton Family YMCA has already seen an uptick of program participants, and more importantly an increase of participants continuing to remain active at the Wilton Family YMCA, even after a program has ended. According to McDowell, Ryan plays a vital role in helping to motivate and cultivate the program participants’ feeling of community by supporting each member as they work together to develop tools for sustainable lifestyle change.

Ryan feels privileged to be on site at the Wilton YMCA. Her ongoing efforts to educate the community include the monthly delivery of Community Health Seminars. Earlier this year, WCHN and the YMCA hosted “Oh, My Aching Shoulder,” during which orthopedic surgeon Dr. Paul Protomastro reviewed solutions to common shoulder ailments. In the next seminar, “Oh, My Aching Back,” Dr. Joshua Marcus will discuss preventative back pain interventions and treatment options. The discussion is free and open to the community (attendees do not have to be a member of the Riverbrook Regional YMCA) and will take place at the Wilton Family YMCA Activity Center, 404 Danbury Rd., tonight, Tuesday, Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. For more information and registration details, please visit the website.

“This YMCA is truly a full-service YMCA. It is really quite innovative of CEO Bob McDowell to make this commitment to engage and empower the community to become and stay well,” Ryan adds.