Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Promoting Community Health

Yes, we hear the government say that as a nation we’re overweight, we need to eat better and less, more move. That’s nice to know, but it’s kind of like the loudspeakers the Soviets would install in train compartments or in hotel rooms. You learn to tune out the fuzz.

But what if the message came from people closer to home – people you might run into on a daily basis, people who would notice whether or not you are making positive changes – people like your neighbors or coworkers?

My mother-in-law’s work began a program called the Step Diet. They encouraged employees to get pedometers, to track their movements, to take advantage of opportunities to move more. They even had an intensive weight management group, offering personal advice. The result: not only does she wear her pedometer religiously and try to get 10,000 steps a day, but she gave pedometers to all her children and their spouses in an effort to get the family moving.

The community of Princeton, NJ is trying something similar. In a project called Princeton Living Well, funding in part by the National Institutes of Health, a website was created to promote healthy living. Among the offerings are:
· A function that allows daily weight tracking
· A function that allows daily tracking of movement/activity
· A calculation of BMI and information on what different BMIs indicate
· A calendar of events that promote good health – from group bike rides to healthy cooking demonstrations
· A forum section where people can do anything from find an exercise partner to find good local honey.
· A rewards program, where participants earn points for logging on, for participating in discussions, and for attending community health events, among other things. These points can be redeemed for healthy, but fun prizes, such as gift certificates to the grocery store, to local restaurants, free or discounted massages, yoga or exercise classes, etc.

They are also conducting research to see what impact this site has on the
participants ability to pursue and maintain healthy living.

I think the idea sounds promising. Bringing the message close to home, providing a community of people committed to similar goals, and giving motivation through rewards and an easy tracking of progress seems to me more likely to inspire change than a message from high above. Hopefully, it will be successful and will inspire communities across the country to initiate similar endeavors to encourage healthy living.

No comments: