"Without support and funding from Harvest, we would be unable to develop, promote and sustain initiatives to address health issues and work toward a healthier future for Martinsville and Henry County. "
- Barbara Jackman, Executive Director - MHC Coalition for Health and Wellness
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Coalition sponsors a healthy walk to celebrate its fifth anniversary

June 18, 2010

Children chanting “Happy Feet Walking Club” led about 70 people along the Uptown Trail on Thursday as part of the fifth anniversary celebration of the Martinsville Henry County Coalition for Health and Wellness.

The children attend the First United Methodist Church Early Learning Center in uptown Martinsville. Through the coalition’s Activate MHC initiative, they have formed the Happy Feet Walking Club and logged more than 500,000 steps, according to Tara Martin, coalition communications director.

The children often can be seen taking walks through uptown Martinsville, sometimes wearing their red T-shirts with the club’s name, Martin said.

They are not alone. The coalition staff calculates that through its programs, area residents have walked 18 trips around the world (441,294 miles or 882,588,000 steps), lost 6.3 tons (12,608 pounds) and burned 44.1 million calories in the past five years, Martin said. Some of that was done through walking and some through programs such as aerobics and bicycling.

What does 44.1 million calories look like? Martin said it would be the amount in 17,641 large pizzas.

She added that the coalition has tracked people in its programs to determine those numbers.

At Thursday’s “Walk for Health Martinsville-Henry County,” coalition and Activate staffers were joined by their partners at the YMCA, Henry County and Martinsville parks and recreation departments and senior centers, Martinsville Fire & EMS and others.

Several city employees were there as part of Activate’s workplace program, which includes a “Working On Wellness” program and Healthy Employee Fitness Day.

Also, the Partnership for Active Living, which is made up of similar organizations throughout the area, is conducting the community challenge for the second year, Martin said. Participants do activities listed on bingo cards, moving to a new level with each card completed.

“It opens their eyes ... to some things they were not aware of,” she said of fitness opportunities in the area.

Interest in the programs has been growing, Martin said. She said at the first water aerobics class she taught this season there were 30 participants, far more than began last year, and there were so many people in her indoor water aerobics class that the YMCA had to open extra lanes to accommodate them all.

“It’s fun. They have a good time,” Martin said of participants in the coalition’s programs. “I think that’s what’s made it so successful.”

The coalition was begun in 2005 with funding from The Harvest Foundation after a Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey indicated the need for wellness and prevention programs and affordable access to basic health services.

Since then, it has worked to improve access to medical care, promote wellness and the reduction of health risk factors, and advocate for environmental and policy changes to support healthier lifestyles.

It provides a variety of programs including aerobics and fitness classes at sites throughout the community, chronic disease self-management programs, in-school and after-school activities, medication assistance and care coordination for uninsured residents.

The Activate initiative, which focuses on walking and bicycling activities, is part of the coalition, as is Bassett Family Practice. That community health center offers primary medical services on a sliding fee scale based upon income and family size, and it currently serves almost 3,000 patients, more than half without health insurance and coping with chronic medical conditions.

More information on the coalition can be found online at www.healthycommunitymhc.org.




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