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.