Dr. Sid Kettner remembers well the impact Dr. Hans Diehl’s Coronary Health Improvement Project (CHIP) had on Creston Valley residents when it was introduced in 1988.
About 450 people attended the first two information sessions — astonishing for a town with fewer than 5,000 people.
“The town changed in character,” said Kettner. “Walking shoes were ordered in by the hundreds, bananas by the ton, bakeries and coffee shops were trying to outdo each other in offering healthy sandwiches with the most number of grains in their breads, and restaurants were spreading flyers offering steaks at half price. But the CHIPpers and their friends weren’t buying!”
He added that wrist fractures increased among the elderly, who slipped and slid on icy sidewalks that winter as they strove to meet their walking goals.
Such was the impact of CHIP (now Complete Health Improvement Program).
“I think it’s fair to say that the program extended my life,” said former Advance editor Len Langevin, who was among the 450 to take part in the first CHIP program in Creston. “I’ve struggled with weight issues most of my life and unbeknownst to me at the time, my family has a history of heart issues and diabetes. I was diagnosed diabetic seven years ago and have had a couple of heart attacks in the last 18 months. I know that sounds pretty negative, but if it hadn’t been for the CHIP program, I probably would have been diagnosed diabetic 20 years ago and had a fatal heart attack before the age of 40.”
Kettner said he was surprised when he got a call from Diehl, a fellow Seventh-day Adventist Church member.
“Would you consider running a pilot project of a community-based coronary disease prevention program in your town?” Diehl asked.
“He would do the lectures and I would answer the medical questions that the audience might have,” said Kettner, a retired family physician. “Despite some skepticism in the medical community, we forged ahead, knowing they would eventually come to appreciate what was a new concept 20-plus years ago — doctors who would strive to educate their patients not to become sick, and thus eliminate the need to be seen for self-induced killer diseases.”
The result, he said, was “Unbelievable — in numbers, in enthusiasm, in positive clinical and laboratory results. Exciting? For sure. Rewarding? Absolutely!”
Today, nearly 65,000 have graduated from the program, and in many countries. A similar program, but smaller in scale, has been offered regularly in Creston over the years.
“We still run monthly alumni programs where 30-35 graduates, from as long as five years ago, still attend regularly to enjoy nutritious food together, enjoy music, inspirational and humorous readings and an educational/motivational PowerPoint presentation,” Kettner said.
Graduates have seen their angina disappear, blood sugars, blood lipids and blood pressures drop, and osteoarthritis symptoms ease.
In 1997, Kettner published a magazine article about a local couple who were among the first group to attend Diehl’s sessions. Bob and Theresa Andersen went all in, donating the meat in their freezers to the food bank, tossing out their cigarettes, flushing alcohol down the toilet and replacing sugar, salt and dairy products with fresh vegetables. At the time, Bob couldn’t walk to the end of his driveway due to his severe angina. Eventually, he would cycle the 3,000 kilometres to Ottawa in just 47 days — at the age of 67.
“No wonder that apathy has passed and medical personnel throughout the world now see the value of CHIP,” Kettner said. “And that is the reason why we will run it once again in October, celebrating the 25th anniversary of this lifestyle-changing initiative.”
Kettner will be available to provide further information about the program from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 16 in the education room at the Creston Valley Hospital.