Lincoln Health Initiative Becomes Statewide Model

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THE ADVOCATE MESSENGER | ABIGAIL WHITEHOUSE | AUGUST 24, 2015

A recent movement named “Get Healthy Stanford/Lincoln County” was spearheaded by a local primary care physician and city councilman after he realized that inactivity, smoking and obesity are the three main creators of an unhealthy community and something he wants to change.

Now, Dr. Naren James has not only created an annual health movement on the local level, but he plans to promote the model statewide through the Kentucky Medical Association’s Commission on Public Health.

James said in the next year, under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance rates will be effected by the overall health of a community.

“Having a healthier community will actually have a tangible impact on people’s health insurance rate,” James said.

The motivation behind “Get Healthy Stanford/Lincoln County” came from realizing that Kentucky is number three in childhood obesity in the nation, which ultimately effects the future of a community.

“This is the first generation of Kentucky children that are slated to live a shorter lifespan than their parents because of childhood obesity,” James said. “So that’s being impacted by inactivity, smoking and weight. The Commissioner for Public Health stated if you can reduce those three, you can reduce 70 percent of disease in the Commonwealth.”

Due to his involvement statewide, James said he knows the state is concerned that these particular health issues are impacting economic development.

“The reason why we did ‘Get Healthy Lincoln County’ was to make a model that could be used statewide,” he said.

His goal is to promote the movement so that every community in Kentucky can find a coalition of people interested in health to create that “get healthy” community.

“It has to be from the ground up, not from the top down. When you deal with health, people have to make the choice. It has to be educational,” James said.

Shedding light on the effects of inactivity is one of the goals of the health movement.

“Inactivity is a huge issue because it’s not seen for what it is. People underrate how much inactivity is so detrimental. Studies have shown that inactivity is slightly worse than smoking in terms of being a habit. They’ve found that people who are a little overweight but active do a little better,” he said.

James said educating, motivating and mentoring are three important strategies for promoting healthier lifestyles in a community.

“Motivating is a tough thing, even after you educate people, motivating them to make a change is a huge obstacle because they’re ingrained habits. So you have to use group dynamics where you bring people together to support each other,” he said.

Several “Get Healthy Lincoln County” activities were planned to generate this group dynamic during the month of June, many of which were successful.

Now that the “Get Healthy Lincoln County” movement has been approved as an annual effort, James said a committee has already begun planning for next year by determining what did and didn’t work well this time around.

“We had a great turnout for the history walk and that’s because we had a lot of other people involved who had constituencies of their own that were invited. So we had a wide variety of people,” James said.

A Saturday morning of exercise called “Fitness in the Park” was also a well-attended part of the “Get Healthy” month, with instructors Kristian Bell and Carrie Wilson leading the group in several fitness activities.

Also successful and well-attended was the “Dinner with a Doctor” program which featured guest speaker Dr. Linda Carney, of Austin, Texas, who provided the crowd with a plant-based diet and spoke about the benefits of such diets.

“What’s for Dinner Stanford?” was also diet-oriented and invited the public to participate in a plant-based cooking class using local produce, in partner with the University of Kentucky Extension Office in Stanford.

James said that the cooking class has done well and will continue throughout the year but it was realized that programs which require more commitment require more of a push.

“The biggest one we learned from was the ‘Eight Weeks to Wellness’ program. It needs a stronger push because it is a more sustained effort. It’s an eight-week commitment. Anything you’re going to do for several weeks you have to sell it. We should have gone to more events to sell it,” he said. “We need to sell it to people’s individual needs. They have to understand why health is impacting them personally.”

In a broader sense, James said people leading the “get healthy” movement have to learn to speak the right language.

“The language about health is immediately negative,” James said. “It’s a cultural shift. Speaking about health positively is so important, which we tried to do with the Get Healthy program and I think overall it came across positively. Even the things that are negative can be turned into positive.”

With a whole year ahead for the committee to plan, James said next June the “Get Healthy Stanford/Lincoln County” program will be even better.

Stanford City Council members voted to make every June “Get Healthy Stanford” in honor the the late T.J. Hill.

Read the article online.