One person can accomplish a lot. One person supported by friends, family, co-workers and neighbors can achieve goals that seemed impossible.
That’s the philosophy of Healthier Tennessee, a nonprofit program supporting efforts across the state that get people active, tobacco-free and eating healthy. Encouraging workplaces, schools, places of worship and communities to join the cause creates healthy options at every turn. Each small step toward improving health is a win that leads to the next step, and the next.
Here are some examples of Healthier Tennessee in action:
Walk Across Tennessee
Rallying residents to team up and reach a big goal — log 500 walked miles in 8 weeks —may be easy at the start. But how do you keep the momentum going?
Team Tipton, the coalition spearheading a countywide push to live healthier, nailed it — literally.
“We put up signs in different areas to give participants an easy way to measure what they are doing,” says Matt McDaniel, director of the Tipton County Health Department. “We had a good kick-off to the event, with 40 teams participating, and everyone has stayed focused on reaching the goal.”
Once the event ends, the signs will serve as a reminder to residents to get active while they are out and about.
Connecting with God’s own earth
Pastor Undrae Johnson saw his congregation suffering.
He saw early deaths from heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. He saw sickness and chronic pain. He didn’t see children running around and laughing and playing outside. And he decided that the Family Life Fellowship Church in Brownsville could be a force to change that.
Now, kids run and laugh and play on volleyball, soccer and basketball courts that have been installed on church grounds. A softball field is planned next. Adults stroll a walking trail as they catch up with each other and make plans for future events. Everybody tends to the vegetable garden and they get to bring home the deliciously fresh bounty.
“They eat what they have grown,” Pastor Johnson says proudly. “I didn’t understand how disconnected we had become from our food by depending on the grocery store rather than God’s own earth.
“People are amazed at how different fresh-from-the-ground food tastes. And the garden has been such a success that now every school in the area has a community garden.”
Making a splash with students
Some have even been diagnosed at this early age with type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure due to those extra pounds.
Sugary drinks are major contributors to the childhood obesity problem, leading ActiveAndersonTN, the Tennessee Clean Water Network and numerous other local organizations to come together to install water bottle filling stations in some schools.
The move had plenty of additional benefits that made it attractive:
- The nearby river was littered with plastic from all kinds of sodas and juice drinks.
- Water is affordable for everyone, no matter their family income.
- Kids need to stay hydrated throughout the day to be alert and ready to learn.
- One group donated water bottles with an anti-tobacco message.
“The kids were so excited, and when we installed the filling stations, we talked to them about the importance of staying hydrated during the school day,” says Kathy Scruggs, health educator with the Anderson County Health Department.
“We believe that learning to make water their drink of choice will really make a difference to their health.”
Healthy Work Snacks
The urge to snack on a little something between meals is common, and unfortunately, the workplace vending machine usually only offers chips and sweets.
In Sullivan County, workplaces like the Bank of Tennessee and AtWork Personnel have turned to supermarket chain Food City for healthier options employees will actually like.
The grocery store delivers well thought-out snack combinations, created by a registered dietitian, to the companies. Each nibble consists of a protein and a high-fiber carbohydrate to keep energy up and hunger at bay, all at under 300 calories. Employees can now grab a small bag of low-cal popcorn, mixed nuts and a mandarin orange, or a packet of peanut butter and an apple.
“This is not a matter of throwing a bunch of apples in a bowl in the conference room — that doesn’t work,” says Elizabeth Hall, corporate/retail registered dietitian at Food City. “We are getting a lot of positive feedback. I’ve heard from AtWork that they used to have a ‘junk bin’ filled with unhealthy snacks. They got rid of it, and employees love the healthier snacks.”
“One woman has a dress hanging in her office that she wants to wear to an event. She is thrilled that her weight loss goals are being supported at the office and she isn’t met with temptation every day.”
Onsite health care
A trip to the doctor can take hours, from traveling to the office to filling out paperwork, sitting in the waiting room and then finally getting an exam. Sometimes the time doesn’t seem worth the effort. Batesville Casket Company employees and their families in Manchester don’t have to deal with that, since the company put a health and wellness center on site. Comprehensive primary care services are available at no charge to employees and their families who are enrolled in a company health plan.
Employees can get in to see a doctor without having to wait weeks for an appointment or feeling rushed when they get there. That ease of access increases preventive care, while also building strong patient/doctor relationships that lead to greater communication and trust.
There are also services for those looking to improve their overall wellness. One of the most popular is a wellness program that starts with a comprehensive body composition scan. Participants receive a personalized nutrition and exercise plan, then check in weekly for support and guidance. The results have been literally life-changing for the employees, even after less than a year.
People who had struggled with their weight in the past are dropping ten, twenty and thirty extra pounds and feeling better for it.
“We want our employees and their families to lead longer, healthier and more productive lives, and the center is helping us achieve that goal,” says Corey Warden, human resources manager. “I have been there a few times already and learned some things I can do to prevent future health issues. As part of the Healthier Tennessee Communities committee for Coffee County, we talk to other industry leaders about focusing on healthier lifestyles for their employees and try to align them with what we are doing in the area.”