Lean On Me: Tzu Chi’s “Healthy Community” Wellness Programs

Tzu Chi Medical Foundation  |  September 26, 2019

Written by Nancy Chen
Photos by Elvis Gao
Edited by Monique Kuo & Dilber Shatursun

After starting in 2014, the Tzu Chi Medical Foundation’s “Healthy Community” wellness program now provides preventive health services to thousands of individuals in need.

In the age of information, there are few people who could truthfully agree that eating fast or processed foods, smoking, or lack of exercise are healthy, wise choices. But, the reality is that many of us choose to turn a blind eye on the perceived impact such choices have on our health and instead, give into temptation.

In order to help people truly embrace healthier lifestyle choices, the “Healthy Community” wellness program is holistically designed to guard the body, mind, and spirit. On top of that, the program integrates the power of community and peers through four major outlets: patient support groups, cancer awareness programs, healthy living programs, and community outreach programs.

Healthy Community Wellness Program supporting service users with healthy body, fun exercise and upbeat spirit.

An attendee in a cancer support group once shared how he learned to be more positive through the program. He reported that he emotionally and spiritually felt better thanks to the love and care of the volunteers, and felt more informed about his cancer treatments.

Even Dr. Yee, Lecturer of the Faculty of Medicine, pointed out that positive thinking enables a person to gain spiritual power, so that he or she may dodge or rise above depression. When one is in a happy mood, the brain automatically produces a feel-good hormones called endorphins. And, Tzu Chi’s wellness programs are focused on creating such a feel-good environment.

Peer support group – participants exchanging information after a health education session

Despite its progress, the wellness program still faces some challenges. First, limited space means only a limited number of people may participate. Second, to keep up with growing competition among similar wellness programs, Tzu Chi’s may be tasked to expand its services and offer specialized programs for new populations. Additionally, a shortage of staffing and volunteers limits the breadth of programming Tzu Chi may offer.

A live stream of a “Understanding Brain Tumors” workshop (Photo taken by Ming Yin)

But, where there is a will, there is a way: with limited resources, creativity blossoms. Programs sometimes stream live and workshops are sometimes recorded to share across social media channels, including Facebook, Line, and WeChat. The attention it has brought sparks hope that the group can establish a Health Education Resource Center in the long-term. 

The Tzu Chi Medical Foundation’s goal is to serve the underprivileged with affordable and quality, patient-centered healthcare that ensures all-encompassing wellness within a community. Even Dharma Master Cheng Yen has said, “we recognize suffering doesn’t stop at the body, and that’s why we offer more than just treatment. We give patients a shoulder to lean on.” It is our sincere hope that our wellness programs provide just that.