This is part of an ongoing series: What is Making the Triangle Area so Desirable?
Featured Photo: Neuse River Trail; Photo by Wileydoc/Shutterstock.com
Wellness is more than simply enjoying an illness-free life. It is a dynamic process of becoming aware of and making choices towards change and growth, characterized by fulfillment, health, happiness, prosperity, and welfare. How much do Triangle area residents prioritize wellness… a lot! Qualities which comprise wellness are incorporated into the Triangle lifestyle and the area has deservedly been recognized for its focus on wellness over the years, and most recently, Raleigh was ranked #3 among the Happiest Cities in America by Men’s Health Magazine for 2021. The Men’s Health study, which surveyed over 100 of the largest cities in the country, identified characteristics a ‘happy’ person would embody by their physical and mental health, as well as financial and general wellbeing. For the businesses and residents across the region – and specifically those who’ve lived in the area for many years – this comes as no surprise. With easy access to the mountains and the beach, a focus on fitness, robust healthcare system, and support by local government to promote residents’ quality of life with outdoor experiences, a commitment to affordability, safety and welfare, the Triangle naturally encourages wellness.
Happy people have a strong wellbeing! With community and local engagement, strong employment, income equality, home ownership, and access to housing, a positive environment and overall physical health across the region, it comes as no surprise to find national and international recognition centered around the wellness and quality of life of Greater Raleigh area residents.
- #2 Best in Quality of Life in the World by Numbero in 2020
- #14 Top Healthiest Cities by the American Fitness Index, which conducts an annual report of the best large cities for fit and active lifestyles. The area gets high marks for setting aside a high percentage of city land as parkland. 2019
- #10 Healthiest Cities by Mindbody in 2017. According to their list, Raleigh is also the High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) capital of the United States, with more fitness studios offering HIIT training than other areas.
- #3 Sportiest City, Men’s Health, September 2017
- #22 Most Caring cities in America according to WalletHub, January 2017
- Top 10 Best Cities in America to Live by 24/7 Wall St in Nov 2017
- One of the Safest Cities in America by WalletHub in 2020
In the Workplace
“With world-class medical care, competitive universities, and a range of unique cities and living experiences, there are so many advantages to being in the Triangle. There is a place for everyone to live, develop their careers, and enjoy their families in their own unique way.” says Sarah Krepp, SVP, Human Resources and Administration for Istari Oncology and local to Raleigh for over 20 years, born and raised in North Carolina. Like many companies, Istari Oncology considers employee wellness a key component of their employee benefits packages. Headquartered in Research Triangle Park, Istari Oncology, Inc. is a privately held clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on novel immuno-oncology and immunotherapy treatment platforms.
Wellness programs engender happier employees and happy employees work harder and are more engaged. Success with corporate wellness programs yield improved engagement, morale, presenteeism, retention and in many cases, improved health outcomes. They support the physical, mental and social needs of the employees. In a work environment which demands increasingly more from employees to keep pace with accelerating technology, expectations, stress and inability to turn-off and walk away – as what we have seen with Covid-19 – there has been evidence of a negative impact on productivity and wellbeing. “Historically, corporations tended to focus on wellness solely in terms of physical health. Today’s workforce expects more, and as a result, we’ve seen employers expand the definition of wellness to include physical health, mental health, work-life balance, diversity and inclusion, and financial wellbeing.” reports Krepp. “Employers also consider cost of living, access to reliable technology allowing for remote work, and increased flexibility when determining their base of operations.”
With new area jobs and corporate investment announced throughout the community, the Triangle area continues to rank among the top locations to conduct business, and wellness is most definitely a consideration as prospective and existing businesses look to expand and grow their operations. Tech and biopharma giants are shaking up the job, housing and commercial real estate markets as the area continues to be a sought after home to businesses and individuals alike. Apple will open the base of their largest campus on the East Coast in the Research Triangle Park and bring with it more than $1 billion investment in the area. Google is planning the Cloud’s new engineering hub in Durham and Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies will also be opening offices in the area. The Parkline building along US 15 and 501 will host Nike who may also share the building with other area companies including UNC Health. Such announcements only add to the list of global companies tapping the Triangle for their employees, base of growth and investment.
According to the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO), more than 90% of business leaders say promoting wellness can affect employee productivity and performance, and they view health as an investment in human capital. There is a broader value proposition for investment in workplace health. As companies make a business case to pursue a broader proposition for wellness and incorporate it into greater organizational initiatives, cities that are highly ranked for wellness and lifestyle like the Raleigh-Durham area will benefit. As Krepp notes, “The workforce demographic has shifted radically with millennials currently comprising 35% of the workforce – a number that is expected to grow to 74% by 2030. This generation craves an authentic employment experience that focuses on their overall wellness. Employers who focus on wellness will stand apart from their competitors and will be able attract and retain high-caliber talent. Wellness has become a competitive advantage and strategic differentiator.”
The Greenways and Parks
There must be buy-in from the top down when creating a culture of wellness, encouraging it throughout avenues and programs. Just like that in the workplace, support by local leadership is key to success when it comes to wellness in the community. Triangle area municipalities have been instrumental in promoting wellness, and one simple way to do so is through encouraging physical activity.
Funding for area greenway planning and construction consistently ranks among the top priorities for expenditures and has resulted in one of the largest greenway networks in the country. Planning organizations and local governments have dedicated an increasing amount of capital for greenway trails and the NC Department of Transportation has contributed to its funding to support pedestrian and bicycle projects. In 2000, there were less than 10 miles of on-road bike lanes in the Triangle and now we find more than 100 miles across the area. Raleigh, Cary and Durham have the most greenways, but virtually every community in the Triangle boasts some sort of greenway access with ambitious plans for future growth.
Triangle greenways are typically paved corridors of protected greenspace, running along rivers, creeks and lakes. They were developed as part of the flood management plans but were equally important to preserving greenspace adjacent to waterways and tributaries, protect aquatic habitats, and protect development of ecologically sensitive lands. The greenways also connect a number of linear parks in each area city with recreational activities for residents and visitors, including playing fields, picnic areas, boating facilities, fishing, bird watching, nature trails, outdoor sculptures and community centers.
A 2017 survey by the US Census Bureau noted an 81% increase in recreational cycling and bicycle commutes in the region as a result of public support of on-road cycling facilities and the robust greenway system. The area has also devoted 17% of the municipal land to parks compared to the national average of 10.6%. Cycling, boating, camping, and hiking are all easy day excursions with Umstead State Park and American Tobacco Trail nearby. And as mentioned in the last issue in our series, we have the North Carolina Museum of Art and Museum Park which integrates art with the outdoor experience just outside downtown Raleigh.
With widespread support from residents to corporations, the Triangle will continue to have one of the best and most extensive, integrated greenway systems in the country.
THE TRIANGLE REGION GAINS THE FOLLOWING FROM THE EAST COAST GREENWAY:
- 11,225,000 Estimated miles biked per year
- 7,407,000 Estimated miles walked per year
- 3,592,000 Hours of physical activity per year
- $87M In economic benefits per year
- $1.5M In health and environmental benefits per year
- 800 Temporary and permanent jobs
- $90M+ In total benefits per year
Source: The Impact of Greenways in the Triangle by Alta Planning + Design; September, 2017
Health & Healthcare
The Research Triangle ranks among the top MSAs in physicians per capita and is home to two of the nation’s top medical teaching and research hospitals, UNC Chapel Hill and Duke University, in addition, the larger UNC Healthcare and WakeMed Health and Hospitals with two facilities in Raleigh & Cary, which offer residents an impressive range of healthcare services. And the Duke University Health System is one of the reasons Durham is called “The City of Medicine USA”.
The healthcare system locally is brimming with people who have incredibly deep and nuanced insights that could improve daily workflows and deliver better patient care, and as a result, the Triangle area is one of the most promising areas for health innovation and wellness today.
With increasing reach into Eastern North Carolina and headquartered and affiliated with University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, UNC Health comprises 12 hospitals and hundreds of clinic locations from Hendersonville to Jacksonville. UNC Health is a not-for-profit integrated health care system, owned by the state of North Carolina. It exists to serve as a teaching hospital and provide state-of-the-art patient care. UNC Health is North Carolina’s largest academic health system.
UNC Health has a long history of serving the community since it was founded in 1894 and is dedicated to extending their mission of providing excellent health care beyond the walls of the hospital, understanding that health is not just about treating illness, it is about wellness. UNC Health strives to provide resources to help their patients, families and community achieve and maintain their best health. From the facilities to community events, clinics, classes and health screenings, there are numerous opportunities available to area residents.
Kay Taylor, Director of Philanthropy for the REX Healthcare Foundation, helped curate the art collection that was introduced in the new UNC Health Heart & Vascular Center when it opened in March of 2017 – which has since been named among the list of the nation’s Top 50 Cardiovascular Hospitals by IBM Watson Health. They paid close attention to wellness and healing when they began their initial planning. “We knew we would weave in wellness deliberately and incorporate it in every aspect – from physical therapy, fitness facilities to the feel of the building, with abundant sunlight, glass and garden space and the art collection.” Taylor recalls, “As we conceptualized it, even the architectural structures were thoughtfully designed to promote wellness and mirror the patient care programs. You would be amazed by what you might think just looks nice in the building but has proven benefits to our patients and their families; surroundings are known to shorten hospital time for care and recovery,” Taylor reports.
What was installed as part of the UNC Health Heart & Vascular Center has ultimately become the foundation of a larger UNC Health Art Initiative which will include an art collection at the UNC Health Cancer Center and their new hospital which will be located in Holly Springs, opening this fall. Evidence-based research has confirmed that the visual and performing arts play a valuable role in the healing process. From healthcare professionals, patients and visitors, people report feeling better – emotionally and physically- when they take a few minutes out of their day to look at the artwork. Art often offers people inspiration, tranquility, and hope. The hospital gardens also support the healing process and engage patients as they enter and exit the care facilities.
“From the beginning of the building campaign, there was always a plan for an art collection. The beautiful construction allowed us the opportunity to go a bit beyond what was expected and what we could do to make a major impact… The North Carolina Museum of Art gave supportive guidance on how to incorporate a curatorial presence, the owners of the Mahler gallery helped, and the community and area artists got engaged and stepped up their support. The UNC Health Heart & Vascular Center has created a template for us going forward. We didn’t realize the impact it would have on the patients and their families.” Taylor sees, “Art being an integral part of the hospitals going forward.”
No matter where you go around the Triangle, wellness is subtly interlaced throughout the community from the strong healthcare presences to the outdoors, the arts to the culture. Whether you are attending the HIIT studio down the street or walking the gardens of the North Carolina Museum of Art, residents are enjoying the quality of life the area offers. Businesses and individuals considering in what community they want to reside will likely be impressed by all that the Triangle has to offer. As Krepp concludes, “I’m fascinated to see where people decide to live when they move here and what appeals to them. Will they pick an urban environment or opt for the countryside? Do they want to be in a small town or a large suburb? Each person has the ability to select from our diverse community what feels to them like home, but wherever they choose, the benefits of living in the Triangle to our physical and mental wellbeing cannot be denied.”
By Erica Jevons Sizemore
Broker, Realtor, and Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist (CLHMS)
Erica’s background in finance and marketing is matched with a personal passion for an unparalleled experience, love of home design and inability to sit still – always brainstorming how to better position her gregarious clients to support their lifestyle and financial ambitions. Erica returned to residential real estate after 12 years in finance with Morgan Stanley and having worked as the marketing director for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices York Simpson Underwood Realty in the Triangle. With a love of North Carolina and all things Raleigh, she has been an active volunteer and committee chairperson at many of our local community standouts, among them the North Carolina Symphony, Carolina Ballet, and Raleigh Chamber, and currently serves on the board of directors for the House of Hope NC.