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Natural Awakenings Bucks and Montgomery Counties PA

The Heart of Community

Recently, I read that in the 1950s, doctors noticed that the residents of Roseto, Pennsylvania, were not suffering or dying from heart disease though heart disease was rampant in the U.S. This seemed rather odd, and it got their attention.

Roseto was a tightly-knit Italian immigrant community—hard-working and labor intensive. What was protecting its residents? How was this single group of people able to live relatively healthy lives, dying of old age and natural causes to a degree that challenged national, state and local health statistics? Not only that, but Roseto had no suicides, no alcoholism or drug addictions, no welfare or even peptic ulcers. How was this possible? Researchers went looking for answers.

First, they looked at diet thinking that olive oil might be the key but quickly learned that lard was the fat primarily used in their cooking. In fact, 41% of their diet came from fat! The residents also smoked heavily and were obese. Lead Investigator Dr. Stewart Wolf was baffled. He traced relatives’ medical histories back to Italy, and then to the U.S. Still nothing! They expanded their data collection to include nearby towns such as Bangor and Nazareth, Pennsylvania, both European settlements, in the same environment with matching populations, yet found nothing in comparison.

Wolf was at a loss until he started to look at Roseto itself. He found it wasn’t diet, exercise or the water—it was the community that was different. When Wolf and his associate Bruhn walked around the town, they noticed the intimacy of the residents. They visited each other, cooked in their backyards, attended the same church, Our Lady of Mount Carmel. They had established social structures with generations of families living together, respect for grandparents, care for children and more. The researchers observed that it was the foundation of the community itself that created a calming effect on the ethos of the people. The community shielded them from the modern world in some ways; the wealthy were discouraged from flaunting; and those who were unsuccessful were helped by all. Family meals were the norm, and extended family provided a security blanket.

In his efforts to share the research on the power of community and its benefits to health, Wolf was both ahead of his time and a confirmer of ancient wisdom. Community matters. When the spirit is lifted, joy and contentment are possible and overall health is more protected.

This reflects my feelings about the value of Natural Awakenings. Each month our community works together—from readers, advertisers, contributors and staff of the magazine itself—to help foster relationships, to share, educate and help spread awareness, and to promote involvement in our community.

Sometimes going back to basics highlights the wisdom of the simplicity of living. As we move forward, I hope we can all draw closer in community.

With peace, love and laughter,


Joe Dunne, Publisher