September 23 • 09:56 PM

Counties have 'health plan'

Lapeer, St. Clair county officials launch programs for fitness

November 21, 2012
TRI-CITY AREA — It seems everyone's talking about shedding a few pounds, lowering their blood pressure or starting an exercise regime but it's another thing to actually do it.

Local health officials understand the obstacles that come with getting fit and they want to help residents overcome them.

Agencies in both Lapeer and St. Clair counties have recently launched new programs with that goal in mind.

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In Lapeer County, plans are underway for the aptly named, 'The Challenge—Lapeer County.'

It's a yearlong health and fitness program that gives participants the option of pursuing it individually or as a team. Emphasis will be on physical fitness, nutritious eating, cooking with whole foods, quitting unhealthy habits and preventing chronic disease.

Both programs begin in January with a Health Fair to be held at the Lapeer Community Center on January 25-26 and will culminated with a run/walk slated for August 2013.

The personal program includes a series of free wellness classes, guided training from health professionals, online weight loss and health evaluation tools and registration in the August run/walk. Cost is $50.

Groups of four are also welcome to participate. At a cost of $40 per team, members will be asked to attend the health assessment fair in January. They'll have access to an online tracking system and be able to challenge on another. A series of wellness classes will also be offered, although some additional fees may be required.

A county initiative will work on implementing more health and wellness programs in local schools.

Stephanie Simmons, Lapeer County Health Department Director, introduced the program to county commissioners earlier this month.

Simmons said The Challenge was born out of the Lapeer County Community Foundation's 'Envisioning Lapeer County's Future' health care work group which was formed more than five years ago. One of the work group's visions was to "increase personal responsibility for wellness and health care."

Simmons noted that the area's health assessments show there's a real need to get residents to adopt healthier lifestyles. (See box)

Founding agencies for the Challenge include the Lapeer County Community Foundation, the Lapeer County Health Department, McLaren Lapeer Region, Lapeer County Mental Health and Lapeer Development Corporation.

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In St. Clair County, the health department is teaming up with a number of agencies to facilitate a local version of the state's Michigan Health and Wellness 4x4 Plan.

The county applied to receive grant funding but wasn't successful. Still, the Healthy Lifestyles Workgroup plans to soldier on in their effort to help St. Clair County get healthier.

"We will do our best," Dr. Annette Mercatante, the county's medical health officer, said. She, along with Dr. Sushma Reddy of the county's Medical Society, co-chairs the workgroup.

"Obesity and its effects on health are a priority public health concern and will remain at the forefront of our responsiveness."

According to recent studies, it's estimated that more than 64 percent of the county's adult population and 30 percent of the county's children are considered to be overweight or obese.

It's notable that the workgroup has already launched several initiatives in recent years, including the development of survey to inventory school-based health and wellness programs and the 'Prescription for Nature' pilot program—a regional brochure with locations and types of free recreation opportunities.

They plan to facilitate the creation of community gardens and support the Walk for Summer Reading program, something that was launched by the St. Clair County Medical Society. Capac Elementary School was a $2,000 grant recipient in 2011.

The school purchased books for student take home with them and read over the summer. In return, Capac students and staff committed to walking 15 minutes, three days a week for six to eight weeks.

Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she now resides north of Capac where she enjoys working on the farm, gardening and reading.
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