Suffolk gets healthier

Published 9:09 pm Thursday, November 19, 2015

Amy Paulson of Eastern Virginia Medical School and other guests at the Healthy People Healthy Suffolk annual meeting on Tuesday participate in an interval chair workout led by Sandy Spiro.

Amy Paulson of Eastern Virginia Medical School and other guests at the Healthy People Healthy Suffolk annual meeting on Tuesday participate in an interval chair workout led by Sandy Spiro.

Step by step, pound by pound, Suffolk is getting healthier and lighter.

“There has been a tremendous change … to help bring about a culture of change,” said Douglas Naismith, a board member of the Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community. “It’s generational … and it’s going to take time to see the changes we want to see here.

“But Suffolk is doing it.”


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Four years ago, the Obici Healthcare Foundation asked the Partnership to develop and oversee programs to help curve Suffolk’s battle of the bulge. According to its annual report, the Foundation awarded more than $4.5 million in 65 grants geared toward improving health in Western Tidewater last year. Many of those grants are funding initiatives toward combating obesity, improving the nutritional health of families and reducing the occurrence of obesity-related diseases.

“Obesity had become an epidemic affecting our community,” Regina Brayboy, executive director of the Suffolk Partnership, said during Tuesday’s Healthy People Healthy Suffolk annual meeting. “We are no longer silently battling obesity.”

Instead, the partnership has partnered with multiple community partners to create programs that improve access to health care resources, provide education and give people the tools to become more healthy.

The efforts launched to date have been so successful that the Partnership has applied for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Culture of Health Award, said Nancy Welch, health director for the Western Tidewater and Chesapeake health districts. She said Suffolk can tout several accomplishments on its application: the development of a continuum of care plan to address diabetes and hypertension; teaching children to thrive while preventing chronic disease; and leveraging resources to make the community more active.

The Partnership should find out by mid-December if Suffolk is among the top 50 finalists. The RWJF will award 15 grants to the top finalists.

On Tuesday, committee members gave brief updates of the myriad projects and partnerships that the Obici Foundation has helped fund over the past year. Some of these include:

4$110,742 to Suffolk Department of Parks and Recreation for two-mile walking trail at Lake Meade Park.

4$50,000 to Suffolk Department of Parks and Recreation to equip the new Whaleyville Community Center with cardio and weight training equipment in the fitness center. To date, users have logged more than 9,000 hours on center’s cardio machines since opening on Jan. 1. Part of the money was used to create a walking trail and fund a fitness specialist, who helps residents develop appropriate workouts. The Whaleyville facility attracts users from both Suffolk and North Carolina.

4$7,500 for 15 civic leagues that received $500 grants to use to provide healthy foods and activities at National Night Out. More than 3,500 people attended the multi-community event at Sentara Obici Hospital, where all foods were heart-healthy, water was the only beverage and children got toys instead of candy for prizes.

4$50,000 to the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia, which has developed a mobile food pantry with nutritious foods that visits food deserts in Suffolk once a month. According to surveys by the Foodbank, 38 percent of users have diabetes and 71 percent have high blood pressure. The mobile pantry distributes healthy foods and fresh produce, provided clients with cookbooks of healthy recipes and gave cooking demonstrations.