Launch of a program to fight against obesity, promote walking, healthy lifestyles

Members of the local community attending a past Highmark Wholecare event


For more than two years, discussions about our most chronic and deadly diseases have been pushed aside because of COVID-19. Especially for our minority and elderly populations, preventative care has been interrupted, and the stress, fear and isolation that have resulted from COVID-19 have led to poor lifestyle choices that have only perpetuated health problems. As a result, our most vulnerable populations face far more deadly diseases than the coronavirus. I’m talking specifically about obesity.

Obesity is a national pandemic that has been exasperated by the global pandemic. And Latin American populations are among the most at risk. According to US Office of Minority Health, Latinos are 1.2 times more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic whites. Among Latino women, nearly 80% are overweight or obese, compared to 64% of non-Hispanic white women. And this is not limited to adults. Latino children were nearly twice as likely to be obese as non-Latino white children.

We know that obesity leads to a host of health problems and chronic diseases. Overweight people are more likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes, and LDL cholesterol, all of which are risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Fortunately, healthy lifestyle changes are simple, although not always easy or culturally supported. This is where we as a community need to make a change. And it all starts with consistent decisions that create movement. In fact, one of the most powerful ways to fight obesity is movement.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) CDC, physical activity, such as walking, can help improve health even without weight loss. Physically active people live longer and have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression and certain cancers. Adults need at least 150 minutes (2 1/2 hours) of physical activity per week.

Here’s the challenge: in order to motivate those at high risk to increase their physical activity, we need to ensure that there is adequate education, resources and incentives to do so. This includes creating safe and convenient spaces to walk and creating initiatives that provide people with free, accessible and easy-to-follow information. All of this can help people, especially older people and minorities, commit to being more physically active.

Next month, Highmark Wholecare, a leading Pennsylvania-based managed care organization, in collaboration with Harrisburg Housing Authority and Latino Connection, will launch a 12-week Healthy Steps walking program where participants will commit to adopting lifestyle choices. healthy lifestyles for the next three months, including increased physical activity.

This program encourages everyone, especially our senior population, to intentionally improve their habits for a healthy lifestyle during the summer months by taking a daily walk, making wise food choices and addressing health issues early. health. As part of the program, Highmark Wholecare will host seven engagement events at various locations within the Harrisburg Housing Authority that will include giveaways, education, healthy eating demonstrations and healthy living tips.

The first event will begin June 1 at the Harrisburg Housing Authority on Chestnut Street in Harrisburg starting at 1 p.m. This is a free public event, and everyone is welcome.

This initiative is a powerful and intentional step in closing the gap that exists in addressing the social determinants of health in our minority and high-risk populations. The social determinants of health are factors such as food and housing insecurity, transportation, employment, social support, which affect up to 80% of a person’s health. Prevention requires education, and education requires engagement. The Healthy Steps Walking program is one step forward and we hope it leads to another and another – not just from a community partnership perspective, but from the collective steps of individuals who join this initiative to regain their health. . It’s time to get back to being proactive and not reactive when it comes to health – and it’s time to get moving now.

George Fernandez is the founder and CEO of Latin connectiona national leader in community education, health awareness and wellness programs focused on low-income and uninsured communities.

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Ryan H. Bowman