Healthier living program coming to Lakewood Ranch. Substantial gift moves it forward

The Brain Health Initiative got a boost Tuesday for its efforts to launch a pilot program for healthier living with a $316,000 gift from Lakewood Ranch Medical Center.

The pilot program will seek to collect data from residents in the Lakewood Ranch, Bradenton and Sarasota areas to be used to promote brain health, increase brain health outcomes through prevention, early identification and early intervention, executive director of the Brain Health Initiative Stephanie Peabody said.

“We will be working very closely with Lakewood Ranch Medical Center to promote those brain health protective factors. In addition, we are preparing for the pilot. The pilot will serve as a representative sample of Lakewood Ranch residents pertaining to overall brain health. So we are using the next eight months to prepare for that pilot, which will launch in the spring of 2020,” Peabody said.

The gift announced Tuesday is the second largest since officials announced in March that a living laboratory was planned at Lakewood Ranch for scientists to investigate brain health across the human lifespan.

At that time, Rex Jensen, CEO/president of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, developer of Lakewood Ranch, announced support of the initiative with a $600,000 commitment.

Andy Guz, CEO of Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, said Tuesday the gift is the largest made by the hospital during his three years at the helm.

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A $316,000 gift from Lakewood Ranch Medical Center helps the Brain Health Initiative stay on course for launching a pilot program in the spring. Shown above are, left, Stephanie Peabody, executive director, Andy Guz, hospital CEO, Rex Jensen, CEO of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, and Monaca Onstad, director of community relations for LWR Communities. James A. Jones Jr.

“We have been working on this gift really since the start of the initiative was announced,” Guz said. “We knew we wanted to be part of it. It’s part of being a good community partner. As the hospital in Lakewood Ranch, we felt this was a necessary thing for us to participate in. It’s in our wheelhouse for a healthy lifestyle.”

The latest gift helped the Brain Health Initiative reach its $1.6 million goal for phase one and begin moving forward with phases two and three, Peabody said.

The Brain Health Initiative, which has been temporarily working out of the former Summerfield Information Center south of State Road 70, is preparing to move into office space at 11506 Rangeland Parkway. Making room for Brain Health Initiative is a visitor center that is moving to Lakewood Ranch Main Street.

Alzheimer’s disease is predicted to afflict an all-time high 560,000 Floridians who are 65 and older, the Alzheimer’s Association said this year. The Academy for Brain Health and Performance (ABHP) and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital, announced in March that Lakewood Ranch had been selected for the Brain Health Initiative.

The Brain Health Initiative will be based at Lakewood Ranch’s CORE Campus — Collaboration Opportunities for Research and Exploration.

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A $316,000 gift from Lakewood Ranch Medical Center helps the Brain Health Initiative stay on course for launching a pilot program in the spring. James A. Jones Jr.

Florida, the third-most populous state, has the second-largest number of Alzheimer’s diagnoses in the country. By 2025, the number of Floridians with Alzheimer’s is expected to grow 28.6 percent to 720,000, the Bradenton Herald previously reported.

Program leaders chose Lakewood Ranch and the surrounding Manatee and Sarasota counties for its multi-generational makeup, multi-faceted framework, high level of social engagement, vibrant business community and strong medical, wellness, educational, and arts and culture infrastructure.