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December 12. 2012 8:24PM

Land donated to Keene State for health and wellness center

KEENE - Plans for a Keene State College health and wellness center are moving forward, thanks to a land donation of 2.7 acres by the Main Street America Group, the college announced this week.

The 90,000-square-foot building would be built at the corner of Gilbo Avenue and School Street.

An indoor track and space for academic programs such as nutrition and athletic training are planned for the future center, Keene State College Interim President Jay V. Kahn said Wednesday.

"We have had a health and wellness center as a part of our strategic needs identified over the last four or five years," Kahn said. "We've been holding these conversations both on the campus as well as with our community."

Construction would begin in the next five years, Kahn said.

MSA Group is the parent company of National Grange Mutual Insurance Co., a national insurance firm founded in Keene 100 years ago.

"MSA Group and NGM have been very consistent supporters of the college over the past 25 years, and they, too, have taken a strong interest in the same kind of academic and community activities in the community the center will foster," Kahn said. "Their gift of 2.7 acres of land is in a location that was deemed optimal for this facility for our health and wellness center, one block from the college and one block from downtown. It can serve both the college and community."

Kahn said the cost of the facility is not yet known, but it would likely be funded through a bond.

"Until we get through the programing stage the costs are premature," Kahn said.

"We know that a center piece of the program would be a 200-meter indoor tract," he said. "This is something that is becoming more of a common feature at state colleges."

The expansion would also answer the growing student interest in health fields, Kahn said.

"Currently at Keene State, 15 percent of our undergraduate enrollment is in health and wellness fields - majors such as nursing, nutrition, health sciences, athletic training and physical education," Kahn said.

Not only would the new center answer these burgeoning majors, it would answer the needs of the community at large, Kahn said.

The Keene community has set out with its 2020 Vision project to become the healthiest community by 2020 and, as the Affordable Health Care for America Act is implemented, the greater community will move into the health care system and there will be a shift to a preventative and wellness approach in health care, which would also be the focus of the center, Kahn said. Currently, about 10 percent of the people in the U.S. are receiving health care but consuming about 90 percent of the health care costs, he said.

"One of the ways to control costs of health care is move away from the traditional form of health care that we've grown accustomed to in the country to a more community oriented health care you can get in this type of facility," he said. "This last decade there's been a transformation about how people think about health and wellness and fitness and a transformation from a physician-centered idea of wellness to an individual responsibly for wellness and a community responsibility for wellness and this is part of that transformation."

Because of MSA Group's land donation, Keene State plans to share the naming of the center with the business."This creates a wonderful opportunity for the college, and we're very appreciative to the MSA Group and their important donation and for sharing our values for preparing health and wellness professionals and for creating those partnerships for those programs with the community," Kahn said.

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Meghan Pierce may be reached at mpierce@newstote.com.


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