Raising the bar for health

Published 9:17 pm Monday, October 6, 2014

Throughout the year, a journalist reporting on Suffolk will inevitably write often about initiatives of Healthy People Healthy Suffolk.

Let’s see — the Suffolk on the Move 5K Run and 1-Mile Walk, held in the spring. The Peanut Fest 5K Run/Walk and 1-Mile Walk, coinciding with Peanut Fest in the fall. Suffolk Restaurant Week, which Healthy People Healthy Suffolk has had a hand in with regards to the Healthy Desserts Contest.

An education reporter in Suffolk would be highly unlikely to live for 12 months without writing at least one story about a school garden. Naturally, the nonprofit has been instrumental in setting up many of those.

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Now let’s talk National Night Out: Those crime-fighting events in neighborhoods across the city one Tuesday in August this year received assistance from Healthy People Healthy Suffolk, which with the Obici Healthcare Foundation — its funding partner in a lot of things — provides grants for healthy food and activities.

Reporting each of these events and programs in isolation from the others, one isn’t able to appreciate the breadth of Healthy People Healthy Suffolk’s sweep in whipping the city into shape and setting citizens on the path to a longer and more fulfilling life.

But it all snapped into focus during the organization’s annual update last week. At YMCA Camp Arrowhead, coordinators from each project rose from their chairs — in the true spirit of the Healthy People mission — and collectively detailed the impact being made.

The aforementioned projects are just a sample, and the energy in the room was almost palpable. Each speaker seemed more enthusiastic than the last. It seems they are trying to outdo each other when it comes to changing Suffolk for the better.

But though I may have detected a dash of the competitive spirit last Tuesday, these community leaders also know they are working together toward a common goal.

Speaking to that is the organization’s Community Road Map for Health Improvement 2013-2021, which states, in part: “It is only by working together with a common purpose that Suffolk will become a city where the healthy choice is the easiest choice.”

To be sure, Healthy People Healthy Suffolk has some work ahead of it yet: Fast-food restaurants seem to be proliferating, and heart attacks and strokes are still far too common a problem in the city.

But if that dedication and drive are maintained, the mission can be accomplished.