Promoting good health in Hammond

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A healthy city is important because good health enables clear thinking, which makes for better life choices, increased self-esteem and sets a good example for youth, Marci Crozier, the General Manager of Franciscan Omni Health and Fitness says.

For teachers, administrators and parents what we do is going to be a reflection for our youth,” Crozier says. “When you are eating right and exercising it just makes for better decisions.”

Through a program called Global Fit, Crozier says, Franciscan Omni Health and Fitness provides discounted fees for School City of Hammond employees through their insurance program.

School City of Hammond insurance coordinator Anna Cottrell says at this time 90 of their employees have applied for an insurance benefit which they receive if they belong to a health club and attend it at least 78 days within a year’s period. Cottrell says Hammond schools also have their own individual groups which get together using the school gyms.

Franciscan Alliance Well Life representative Cindy Ross works in conjunction with the “Working Well” program which provides biometric screenings and education lectures utilizing hospital staff including nurses, and directors to several Hammond employers. Specifically the “Well Life” program provides educational materials with some on-site events to Hammond employers: the City of Hammond; the School City of Hammond; Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad; Cintas; and Unilever. On a more regional perspective, Franciscan St. Margaret Health provides several on site activities and events, through the “Well Life” program, to ArcelorMittal, BP Amoco, Nisource, Lake County Government and Ford Assembly Plant which all have a large number of employees who live in and around Hammond, Ross says.

One upcoming program, Crozier says, is the “Anybody Can Do a 5K” race Sept. 21 at Plum Creek in Schererville. Sponsored by Omni it is open to all Northwest Indiana residents.

Good health is important in the schools also.

Julie Boetger, Director of Food and Nutrition for the School City of Hammond, says her department administers the breakfast and lunch programs for the school district.

“There have been a lot of changes in requirements for meals,” Boetger says. “Meals are a lot healthier than they were 20 years ago when our parents were in school. Our menus are lower in fat. This year there are new sodium requirements.”

Boetger says there are also minimum and maximum calorie requirements. The past two years, vegetable sub groups include more deep green and orange vegetables and legumes. After school snacks are also provided.

Boetger says regular meetings with the secondary school advisory group indicate that students’ interest in nutrition has changed. They are more aware of how nutrition affects their sports activities and their life-long health. Boetger says.

“They still want their favorite foods too,” Boetger says. “They understand what constitutes good nutrition and understand the impact on their future health. They watch the Food Network and are creative in their food choices and interested in a variety of foods.”

Two years ago the School City of Hammond introduced grab and go meals which include yogurt, a low fat mozzarella cheese stick and fruit and vegetable portions with a whole grain option.

“We have been surprised that so many children select that on a daily basis,” Boetger says. “I think their tastes are changing.”

During summer the School City provides meals in the parks serving breakfast and lunch for children two years old to 18 from the end of the school year until August 1.

A program at Morton Elementary School, run through Fitness Pointe, is called Take Five, Boetger says. Representatives meet with fifth grade students weekly, giving them lessons in nutrition and providing physical activity. Each student is given a pedometer to count their steps on a daily basis. Each teacher has a dash board to track students’ progress and a lesson goes along with the fitness goals every week, Boetger says.

Crozier is on the board of directors of the Wellness Council of Indiana, which has a program called Indiana Healthy Communities. Through this program communities are evaluated for healthy environments. Having healthier citizens through traffic initiatives for automobiles, pedestrians, and bicyclists, better grocery stores and farmers’ markets for healthier consumers and health policies such as a tobacco free laws are some of the criteria used in their evaluations, Crozier says.

Crozier says engaging the population to join together to optimize their communities for increased enjoyment and well-being through parks, green environment and opportunities to help others through volunteering is extremely important.

“To have sustainability, it is about really providing programs and outreach,” Crozier says. “I believe in the volunteer program very much for a healthier community because at the end of day that makes us feel good about ourselves. When we feel good about ourselves we can increase the momentum of making healthier and better choices.”

The last part that is assessed in a community is the healthy work places, Crozier says.

“At work places we expect a healthy culture both in public and private corporations including schools,” Crozier says. “It is harder culture at work to get everybody to engage. Healthy work places are critical to healthy communities.”