MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

October 10, 2010

Muskogee Wellness Initiative promotes healthy life

Created in 2008, the Muskogee Wellness Initiative is a standing committee appointed by the city council to promote healthy lifestyles among the citizens of Muskogee. The group’s mission is to create a healthier community where residents choose to change and lead overall healthier lifestyles by improving their fitness, nutritional habits and eliminating tobacco use in order to eat better, move more and be tobacco free. The initiative has formed committees to focus on each of the three prongs of the mission and sponsor activities in these areas.

The group’s mission is derived from the fact that Oklahoma is in the bottom five states in terms of overall citizen health, resulting in a shorter average lifespan for Oklahomans. In addition, the two primary causes of death in Oklahoma are smoking and obesity. To address these issues, the Muskogee Wellness Initiative places a strong emphasis on public education with billboards around town and television commercials to increase awareness of the need to shift from unhealthy lifestyles to healthy lifestyles.

The group’s main target in 2010 is tobacco use among college students. They are working with area colleges to meet the goal of smoke free campuses by January 2011.

The Wellness Initiative partners with the Muskogee Farmers’ Market to promote fruits and vegetables by sponsoring two Grill Crazy events each summer to demonstrate how to grill different types of vegetables and encourage shoppers to try new vegetables they may not be familiar with.

They also sponsor community gardens in city parks, at schools and at churches as a way to put more fruits and vegetables on family tables. The Parks and Recreation community garden consists of 36 raised beds at Spaulding Park. This is the first time a city park has been used as a community garden site.

This summer, the Wellness Initiative collaborated with Benjamin Franklin Science Academy’s Summer Science Camp and community garden by providing programming twice a week on nutrition and the effects of secondhand smoke.

Cooking classes and demonstrations on healthy choices are hosted throughout the year, and this fall, wellness initiative volunteers will promote fruits and vegetables through cooking demonstrations and free recipes at the Women, Infants and Children classes each Tuesday from now through December.

To promote moving more, the initiative partners with the Muskogee Swim and Fitness Center to sponsor events, such as the back to school activity night at Love-Hatbox Sports Complex and Senior Fitness Day in May. This fall, community walks are being planned downtown and in city parks to encourage people to get out and enjoy the fall weather.

The Wellness Initiative is implementing the Certified Healthy Business Program of the Oklahoma Turning Point Council, which recognizes businesses that promote good health among their employees through measures such as onsite health screenings, tobacco use prevention, opportunities and incentives for physical activities, and health and nutrition education.

For more information about the wellness initiative and their upcoming activities, contact Dr. James Baker, M.D., at jbaker@careatc.com.

To recommend an organization for an upcoming column, contact Rebecca at rwalkup @thenonprofitresourcecenter.org or 683-4600.

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