City approves health initiative

Published 10:02 pm Monday, July 29, 2013

Officials celebrate the city approving a resolution in support of Healthy People Healthy Suffolk. From left are Robbie Laughton, executive director Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community; Vice Mayor Charles Brown; M. Caroline Martin, president of the Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community Board of Directors; Mayor Linda T. Johnson; City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn; Gina Pitrone, executive director of the Obici Healthcare Foundation; and J. Samuel Glasscock, member of the Board of Directors of the Obici Healthcare Foundation.

Officials celebrate the city approving a resolution in support of Healthy People Healthy Suffolk. From left are Robbie Laughton, executive director Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community; Vice Mayor Charles Brown; M. Caroline Martin, president of the Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community Board of Directors; Mayor Linda T. Johnson; City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn; Gina Pitrone, executive director of the Obici Healthcare Foundation; and J. Samuel Glasscock, member of the Board of Directors of the Obici Healthcare Foundation.

The city of Suffolk signaled its support recently for a long-term plan to improve the health of its citizens by approving a resolution acknowledging the Healthy People Healthy Suffolk initiative, organizers said, and participation from community members on one of several workgroups is being sought.

“This shows the city is not only aware of but is concerned about the health of its citizens,” said Keisha Cutler, Healthy People Healthy Suffolk program manager. “We hope this will lead to greater engagement of citizens, businesses and agencies throughout the city.”

The Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community will implement the program that was initiated by the Obici Healthcare Foundation. The plan aims to help improve the health of anyone who lives, works, plays or worships in Suffolk by promoting healthy eating habits, increasing access to nutritional foods, creating a “walkable” and physically active community, promoting environments and policies that support healthy and active lifestyles, and promoting employee wellness policies for the local population.

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The initiative was prompted by information published by the Virginia Department of Health in 2010 that identified Western Tidewater, including Suffolk, as having the highest death rate from diabetes in the state. The incidence rate of diabetes in the area is at 8.6 percent, compared to state’s average of 7.6.

Currently, one in three children and two in three adults in Suffolk are considered overweight or obese, according to a press release from the Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community. Weight issues increase the risk of diabetes and other chronic conditions.

The Obici Healthcare Foundation is the founding partner and initial lead funder for the initiative. The partnership is leading the management, data collection, tracking and monitoring results during the implementation phase.

George Birdsong, chairman of the Obici Healthcare Foundation, and M. Caroline Martin, president of the Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community, said jointly they are “grateful for the city’s support of the Healthy People Healthy Suffolk plan and the call to action for other governmental agencies, private businesses, civic organizations, faith-based groups and individuals to collaborate in efforts to build a healthier community.”

Folks are encouraged to join one of the workgroups being formed to help move the goals of the plan forward.

“Having engaged workgroup members is an essential component that will make the implementation of the plan possible and ensure community buy-in,” Partnership Executive Director Robbie Laughton said.

The workgroups are Healthy Eating, Active Living, Healthcare Practitioners and Community Engagement.

“Workgroups allow community members to take their passions for improved health and make structural changes in institutional policies and practices and improvements in skill levels, build environments and systems change,” Obici Healthcare Foundation Executive Director Gina Pitrone said.

Mayor Linda T. Johnson said she also supports the initiative.

“The city of Suffolk recognized that obesity is a public health concern and will encourage families to adopt healthier lifestyles through healthy eating and being more physically active.”

For more information on how to get involved, call 539-1525.