Middle Georgia community leaders are coming together to help area residents tighten their belts.
Community Health Works, a community-based health outreach organization, held its quarterly Central Georgia Regional Health Summit for Bibb County on Tuesday at the Peyton Anderson Community Services Center in downtown Macon.
The summit, attended by about 50 people, was part of Community Health Work’s three-year campaign to reduce obesity and diabetes in the midstate. The campaign began after an initial summit last year at Macon State College. It targets seven counties: Bibb, Crawford, Houston, Jones, Monroe, Peach and Twiggs.
Kathleen Glass, director of communications at Community Health Works, said each county is creating separate councils that decide the areas that need to be addressed in their communities. The councils comprise health- care professionals, school officials and community members, among others.
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The campaign in Bibb focuses on three areas: workplace wellness, school wellness and community awareness.
“The approach that we’re taking with each of these counties we’re working with ... is to create a community action plan,” Glass said. “Looking at health care from a variety of sectors is obviously what our focus is.”
Glass said the campaign was created in response to overwhelming obesity and diabetes statistics. According to a report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, nearly all of the counties targeted by the campaign suffer from obesity rates near 30 percent.
“There are a lot of health indicators for Middle Georgia that show diabetes and obesity rates are particularly high,” Glass said. “It’s certainly a bigger issue than I think a lot of people realize.”
Summit participants plan to increase community health through tactics such as increasing the number of community gardens, gaining the support of the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce and Bibb County Board of Education, asking schools to require physical education for all grades and removing carbonated drinks from school vending machines.
Glass said the campaign hopes to make use of plans other organizations already have on the drawing board. One such program, Bibb County Medical Alliance’s “Eat More Healthy Snacks,” was created as part of the campaign’s school wellness focus. The program is targeted to elementary-age students and held its first event June 17 at Brookdale Elementary School.
“We ate a healthy snack and compared it to unhealthy snacks,” said Sima Echtiari, a representative of the medical alliance, said of the Brookdale event.
“We did a hip-hop dance as part of our physical activity. Maybe in the future there will be more activity and less snacking.”
Community Health Works also is targeting leaders in Macon to maximize awareness of health issues. Glass announced Tuesday the workplace wellness committee had spoken with the chamber of commerce about starting a health program.
“(The chamber of commerce) is obviously involved in most of the businesses in Macon. If they create a program or policy at the higher level, it could trickle down to all of the other businesses,” she said. “Likewise, we could gain more traction if there was an initiative created by the board of education, ’cause then it could trickle down to all the schools. So that’s one reason we target leaders in those higher offices.”
Glass said the new campaign would focus on the health risks of diabetes and obesity, not on body size.
“Our focus isn’t as much on body image or anything,” Glass said. “We just want to educate the community that, even if you’re not obese yet, unhealthy behaviors such as not eating right, not getting enough exercise and not getting regular checkups can lead to chronic disease later in life.”
For more information on the Central Georgia Health Summit and its programs, visit www.cgrhs.org or call 254-5200.
To contact writer Tiffany Stevens, call 744-4213.