Shepherd Care Beyond Shepherd's Walls
Shepherd Center partners with Burnalong to provide virtual fitness and wellness content tailored to people with disabilities.
Through partnerships with industry experts, Shepherd Center physicians, specialists, and researchers work to develop solutions that help patients and the larger disability community improve their daily lives.
In 2021, one such solution took shape when Shepherd Center announced its partnership with Burnalong, a digital health solution offering live and on-demand health and wellness content. The hospital and online wellness platform are collaborating to create and distribute world-class, specialty programming that makes wellness accessible to all.
“As a non-disabled person, you can go online or choose any gym you want. The same is not necessarily true for those with disabilities,” says Deborah Backus, PT, Ph.D., FACRM, Shepherd Center vice president of research and innovation. “This partnership came from a desire to offer people choices while providing expertise, support, and community aspects as well.”
Burnalong is designed to meet users where they are by featuring more than 30,000 classes, including yoga, exercise, and financial wellness courses for people of all abilities.
“Alongside the unparalleled range of classes and programs, one of the biggest things that sets Burnalong apart is the social experience. You can see and hear each other live. You can join communities. It ensures people get the support they need,” says Burnalong CEO Daniel Freedman. “You can do classes alone or with others, whether friends, family members, or people at a similar stage of life as you so you can find kindred spirits and social motivation.”
Shepherd’s highly trained specialists are developing live and on-demand content geared toward people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, stroke, spine and chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and other neurological conditions. Currently, Shepherd patients, staff, and Burnalong users can access the classes.
“The great thing is that these classes span across all our specialties and are appropriate for many neurological diagnoses and patients who we serve at Shepherd,” says Marina Moldavskiy, ACRP-CP, Shepherd Center’s tele-wellness program manager and exercise physiologist.
Meg Stevenson is a physical therapist at Shepherd Center’s SHARE Military Initiative, a comprehensive rehabilitation program that delivers world-class treatment at no cost to veterans, service members, and first responders who are dealing with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and mental health concerns. Every other Thursday, she leads a gentle yoga livestream class on the Burnalong platform. Her patients log on from home to attend the live class, which helps them stay in shape mentally and physically while also connecting with each other.
“Clients really enjoy being able to stay in touch with me,” she says. “We end up doing 45-50 minutes of yoga because we spend 15 minutes catching up. I think they honestly enjoy that piece as much as the yoga.”
Although not all of Stevenson’s SHARE clients can attend the live stream, they can access all the recorded classes on demand.
“I’ve recorded several guided meditation sessions,” Stevenson says. “They’ve been a game changer. I have one client that was so blown away by his experience, he uses it two to four times per night to help him sleep.”
All of Shepherd Center’s virtual fitness and wellness classes can be prescribed by rehabilitation experts to patients once they return home.
“We are always thinking of ways to empower our patients before they return home,” Moldavskiy, says. “When our patients are at Shepherd, there’s always a rehabilitation professional there to guide them or give them information. Our hope is that this platform can help them feel empowered to continue when they leave our walls.”
While Burnalong is creating an inclusive community, it also opens opportunities for further research. Shepherd Center’s Virginia C. Crawford Research Institute is piloting a multiple sclerosis (MS) study to better understand the program's benefits and if it changes a participant’s quality of life. If you are interested in participating in MS research, click here.
“We are incredibly grateful for Shepherd Center and their shared mission and values,” Freedman says. “We’re excited to explore new areas and bring on new content and programs, and together make an impact globally with Shepherd Center.
Written by Lindsey Rieben
Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.