United Way and partners to tackle chronic diseases, healthier habits

By Catherine Gabe - cgabe@civitasmedia.com

A new $240,000 United Way collaborative focusing on chronic disease prevention for Wellington and the rest of southern Lorain County will soon be unveiled.

Physical activity and nutritional resources are the focus of the collaborative, which includes beefing up the Wellington Farmer’s Market, working with local businesses for healthier employees, and policy issues.

“At the end of the day we’re going to make southern Lorain County healthier, that’s our ultimate goal,” said Charity Butch, executive director for the French Creek YMCA, which is the lead agency for the Live Healthy Southern Lorain County collaborative. “We know these things are long-term and with the chronic disease rate in southern Lorain County, we figured it was a pretty good fit.”

In the target area, 33 percent of adults are overweight and 24 percent smoke, Butch said.

Numbers for chronic disease found 13 percent of southern Lorain County adults have diabetes, 35 percent have high blood pressure, and 36 percent have high cholesterol.

“Through physical activity and eating right we are going to be able to positively impact cardiovascular health,” Butch said.

The three-year project includes advertising and promotion of the Farmer’s Market. “The inspiration is to bring additional people in, secure more vendors, have cooking demonstrations and physical activities at the Farmer’s Market, so if you’re looking for something to do on a Friday night and be active, this is the place to be,” said Butch.

Live Healthy Southern Lorain County partners have been meeting for two years and include Wellington village officials, Lorain County General Health District, Lorain County Metro Parks, Well-Help, Kiwanis, the Wellington Farmer’s Market, Main Street Wellington, the Wellington Salvation Army Service Unit, Inner Circle Personal Fitness, Lorain County Community College, and the Lansman Shape Shop.

The group is working on a name and logo. “We’re still debating the name,” said Butch. “We spent all our time working on the all the great projects.”

The coverage area includes areas south of US 20 including Wellington and outlying areas of Kipton, Camden, Huntington, Brighton, Rochester and Pittsfield townships, Butch said.

The $80,000-a-year project is seeking other funding through local partners and elsewhere, he said.

Similar projects with a variety of focus areas are going on in North Ridgeville (Heart and Sole); LaGrange (Keystone Empowers You) and Oberlin (Oberlin KIDS).

The Wellington-area collaborative, which has been meeting for months, has not yet been awarded funding.

“They have gelled so deeply as a group, that they really understand each others’ strengths to support this large geographic area,” said Christine Matuski-Plas, community impact director for United Way of Greater Lorain County. “This is going to be the catalyst to expand the good things they are already doing.”

Future year plans include a bike path, a possible community garden, helping local food pantries find healthier food options, and developing green space to hold healthy events.

There may also be a move to find healthier food options for concession stands through policy change, which have been successful in LaGrange and North Ridgeville.

Catherine Gabe can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @ReporterGabe on Twitter.

By Catherine Gabe