Street Talk: Alliance for Health has new leadership — and direction?


The Alliance for Health board will meet today — the first time in more than 40 years that long-time Alliance President Lody Zwarensteyn will not be present. For some board members that comes as a shock, as Zwarensteyn was expected to retire in August and an earlier leave was unexpected, even for Zwarensteyn.

The health care know-it-all and the Alliance board last summer announced Paul Brand would phase in as his successor. Brand apparently called upon board chair Don Hall, of The Paradigm Consortium in Ludington, to make a different decision a few weeks ago — without board involvement.

Long-recognized for deep research and fact assistance for all regional broadcast and print media, especially as the Affordable Care Act phased in, Zwarensteyn will be missed.

The Alliance for Health has for almost 70 years brought neutral ground to discussion of a wide-ranging list of health care issues, from the advent of ambulance service at its beginning, to creation of the famed Hillman Commission, to its work in recommending hospital and health care projects to state Certificate of Need reviews.

Regional business owners have long supported the agency as the single most effective solution to containing health care costs. That success shows when the pricing lists for this area are compared (as appropriate) to the Detroit area, or even Kalamazoo.

A move is afoot for a community-wide event recognizing Zwarensteyn’s contributions and achievements in health care, especially in maintaining a local/regional voice in statewide decisions. That recognition movement is not being spearheaded by the Alliance for Health, but by board and board alumni.

Sitting pretty

While most attendees at a state Senate subcommittee meeting last week tuned in to the testimony given by university presidents, there were a select few who shifted their attention to something else: the furniture.

A brand new chair built by a West Michigan firm made its debut Thursday at the Michigan Senate Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meeting in the Loosemore Auditorium of Grand Valley State University’s DeVos Center.

The chair came about thanks in part to research by a Grand Valley faculty member.

Barb Hoogenboom, an associate professor of physical therapy, first met izzy plus CEO Chuck Saylor when he needed therapy for a back injury in 2007. She said he was interested in “excellent sitting” and wondered how an office chair could influence that.

Hoogenboom and several graduate assistants used the GVSU biomechanics lab and researched chair comfort and support, enlisting opinions from many people in the College of Health Professions.

“We have additional long-term research studies planned now that the development of the chair has progressed and it’s been released,” she said.

One of the chair’s differences is its back support. Instead of focusing on lumbar support, the Wabi chair focus is on the seat pan to build a better seating position.

“I really value the university’s support and partnership. This is a tremendous asset to area businesses,” said Saylor.

Hoogenboom offered advice for office workers who sit for long periods of time. “Limit time spent sitting, or break up work tasks to allow for movement,” she said. “When sitting, maintain excellent posture in a work place designed for optimal posture and work.”

Flooding in 2014?

The office of Kent County Emergency Management has put out the word that with all the snow and ice piled up on the West Michigan landscape this winter, a heavy rain and sudden thaw could unleash the Grand River — again.

“Some forecasters and hydrologists say it could be worse than last year. The Kent County Emergency Management Team urges you to be prepared,” advised the county.

Who could forget the Grand River flooding last year in April, and the visual flood of photos in the news media and on the Internet showing fish swimming by — overhead — right outside that lower level window in the Old Town Riverfront Building in downtown GR?

There were millions of dollars in property damage but luckily no fatalities — that time.

Most of the advice from the KCEM focuses on what families and individuals should do to prepare, starting with: Don’t drive into a flooded street thinking you’ll be able to drive back out on the other side. (We are talking to you, motorists at 28th Street and Division Avenue.)

But there are some safety aspects that pertain to business, as well. Is your business or organization located in the Grand River floodplain? If so, do you have a plan to share with all employees on the basics of what to do if the worst happens?

KCEM can provide specific information on Continuity of Operations Planning for businesses and organizations in a potential disaster area. Contact Jack Stewart at (616) 632-6255, or

Sometimes companies also like to play an active role in the community, like participating in community events. That could include helping out as volunteers with various organizations in the case of a flood emergency. KCEM also has information on how that might be arranged.

Let them eat pie

Next week Thursday is Pi Day. Didn’t know that? You are not alone.

But Butch and Renee Rouwhorst, owners of Ryke’s Café and Bakery in Muskegon, are certainly aware of it. The venerable Muskegon eatery is recognizing the international holiday for the mathematical term Pi — with pie!

For the uninitiated, Pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, which is approximately 3.14. To celebrate, the Rouwhorsts will have their signature pie squares available for $3.14, or customers can purchase a whole pie for $9.84, which is $3.14 off the regular price.

Even though Ryke’s has been around since 1937, the odds are good it still has the Pi celebration all to itself.

Like a Virgin

The speaker for this year’s 27th annual dinner meeting of The Economic Club of Grand Rapids will be Sir Richard Branson, founder and chairman of Virgin Group.

The May 27 event will take place in the Steelcase Ballroom at DeVos Place.

Virgin has become one of the world’s most recognized brands, expanding into air and rail travel, leisure and hospitality, entertainment, telecommunications, media, health and wellness, space tourism and clean energy through more than 400 branded companies in 30 countries with global branded revenues of $21 billion.

In 1999, Branson was awarded a knighthood for his “service to entrepreneurship.” Among his extensive commitments to philanthropy, he is recognized with his formation of “the Elders,” a group of independent leaders who seek sustainable solutions to global humanitarian issues. Branson’s dream of opening the world’s first commercial space line was realized with the launch of Virgin Galactic, which will take passengers to suborbital space this year.

The evening’s festivities include honoring this year’s recipients of the Business Person of the Year and Slykhouse Lifetime Achievement awards. The awardees will be announced at a later date.

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