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Get Healthy, Live Well Brings Public Health Solutions to West Georgia

December 30, 2013

Tanner Health System launched a number of successful health promotion programs across west Georgia in 2013 through its Get Healthy, Live Well initiative, a program designed to reduce chronic disease risks for the 151,000 residents of Carroll, Haralson and Heard counties.

With 24 task forces, 150 community partners and more than 500 individual volunteers, Get Healthy, Live Well has achieved notable success with its focus on building community capacity for sustainable public health programs. In 2013, Get Healthy, Live Well led a number of groundbreaking initiatives in west Georgia aimed at increasing physical activity, enhancing nutrition, decreasing tobacco use and minimizing chronic disease risk factors.

Just a few of the more than 1,200 west Georgians who shed pounds in Get Healthy, Live Well's 2013 weight loss challenge.

The 2013 Get Healthy West Georgia weight loss challenge started in January with more than 1,200 participants who joined in community weigh-ins, group fitness classes, health education seminars and charitable runs and walks. More than 200 members completed the free, 12-week program and lost nearly 2,500 pounds, an average of 10.6 pounds per person. The next weight loss challenge will launch in late January 2014 and is expected to attract record participation, with community weigh-ins being hosted weekly at locations across west Georgia.

The program's Youth Task Force is bringing fitness and nutrition education programs to area schools through a number of efforts. Take 10! fitness trainings have been held in three local school systems to help first-grade teachers incorporate 10-minute bursts of physical activity throughout the school day. Take 10! activities combine academic lessons with movement to enforce lessons in the classroom while improving student fitness.

Get Healthy, Live Well held its first series of Cooking Matters classes this fall, and they exceeded organizers' expectations of attendance and positive feedback. The hands-on nutrition education and cooking skills course for low-income individuals is taught by a team of trained volunteers who help students build basic cooking, kitchen and grocery shopping skills, and introduce food budgeting strategies. Classes took place at the Carrollton Boys and Girls Club, Bowdon Housing Authority, Carrollton Housing Authority and the University of West Georgia, and a new series of classes will begin in the spring of 2014.

Get Healthy, Live Well created the West Georgia Regional Food System Collaborative to convene a wide coalition of community groups interested in food and nutrition issues. The collaborative hosted several events in 2013 related to healthy food access, nutrition, community gardens and farm-to-table programs. The group succeeded in introducing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) electronic bank transfers at two area farmers markets, gathered local convenience store owners to raise awareness of food deserts and increase access to fresh produce, promoted a summer Locavore Challenge in cooperation with area restaurants and hosted a farm-to-chef networking event to connect local farmers with chefs, retailers and other food providers.

Get Healthy, Live Well launched two new community gardens in 2013. Planted in April 2013 by more than 80 volunteers, the Knox Park Community Garden is centrally located in a Carrollton Housing Authority community and offers numerous residents access to sustainably grown produce. The second garden was dedicated in October at Stockmar Park in Villa Rica, adjacent to the Pine Mountain Gold Museum. The site is expected to draw more than 100,000 visitors in 2014, and the garden plots will be used as an educational outreach tool to promote the health benefits of eating more fresh fruits and vegetables.

The program's Don't Be a Bonehead anti-tobacco campaign reached thousands of west Georgia youth this year. Tanner staff members taught youth and teens the dangers of smoking, dipping and chewing with an interactive educational exhibit at a variety of community events. Hundreds of area youth signed a tobacco-free pledge, and more than 150 local teens volunteered to be anti-tobacco ambassadors to their peers. The effort will continue in 2014 with a series of Fresh Start smoking cessation classes for teens scheduled at various youth outreach programs in the community.

Tanner is also introducing the National Diabetes Prevention Program to west Georgia in 2014. The yearlong program features a national evidence-based curriculum that teaches lifestyle change strategies to reverse or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes for patients identified at high risk by their health care providers. The classes will be taught by trained volunteers at different sites throughout west Georgia.

With its diverse programs and coalitions, Get Healthy, Live Well is leading innovative approaches for building sustainable solutions to public health in west Georgia. Its focus on supporting collaborative community networks is proving to be an effective strategy for reaching a wide audience with key health messages. Get Healthy, Live Well is evidence of how a community network, built through collaboration and partnership, can successfully educate, promote and develop sustained conditions for healthier lifestyles.

Get Healthy, Live Well is funded by a $1.2 million community transformation grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More information is available online at www.GetHealthyLiveWell.org and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GetHealthyLiveWell.