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  • Print publication year: 2016
  • Online publication date: March 2016

13 - Actively Caring for Obesity

from INTRODUCTION TO PART II - APPLICATIONS OF AC4P PRINCIPLES

Summary

If we don't succeed in turning this epidemic around, we are going to face, for the first time in our history, a situation where our children are going to live shorter lives than we do.

– Francis S. Collins

I've always had struggles with my food and weight. But now, I know how to read these labels and only eat when I'm hungry. I'm eating less of that junk food and cooking more fresh food. That Healthy Living class got me going! My family is going to the Farmer's Market. We go to the park and get our steps. So far, I've lost 20 pounds and got my sugar under control. We're all just feelin’ great.

These are the words of a participant in the Healthy Living in the Mid-Carolinas (HLMC) program. As a health educator, Sallie Beth reflects with joy and curiosity on the beneficial behavior changes shared in success stories like this one. This participant reports making healthier choices, achieving her health goals, and involving her family. Yet we wonder if she will be able to keep the pounds off. We also wonder why more families aren't successful at adopting healthier lifestyles.

Designed to help people get active, eat healthy, and give up tobacco, HLMC is a lifestyle preventive health program. Offered by FirstHealth of Carolina's Community Health Services (FirstHealth), this behavior-change program aims to reduce high rates of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. For nine years, Sallie Beth drove the FirstHealth “Green Machine” station wagon pictured in Figure 13.1. With more than 100,000 miles on its odometer, this station wagon helped spread strategies for adopting a healthy lifestyle in rural communities throughout North Carolina.

Sallie Beth's Green Machine – loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables, step counters, hula hoops, and stress balls – stopped at churches, schools, and community centers. During these visits, she facilitated HLMC classes where participants performed “check our pace” walks to make sure they were reaching a health-benefiting level of physical activity, practiced cooking healthy meals, and devised quit-smoking plans to deal with the “nicotine crazies.”

The tremendous fun and feel-good rewards associated with serving as a health educator on the frontlines were counterbalanced by all-too-common frustration and heartache. Sallie Beth quickly experienced the many challenges involved in motivating others to make lifestyle changes.

1. Healthy Living in the Mid-Carolinas (HLMC) is a $1.5 million community-based preventative health initiative funded by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. From 2007 to 2014, FirstHealth of the Carolinas enrolled approximately 7,000 individuals living at or below 200% federal poverty level into HLMC behavior-change programs. More information about this initiative and healthy living programs offered by FirstHealth can be retrieved from https://www.firsthealth.org/lifestyle/community-health.
2. FirstHealth of the Carolinas is a nonprofit, private healthcare system based in Pinehurst, NC. Its mission is to “care for people.” The Department of Community Health Services partners with churches, schools, and community groups to provide preventive care throughout a four-county rural service region, including Hoke, Montgomery, Moore, and Richmond counties. More information about the department can be retrieved from http://www.firsthealth.org/communityhealth.
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