Spectrum Health and YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids Receive Grant

Following a community-wide body mass index (BMI) health assessment that revealed 59 percent of Kent County residents are overweight and 44 percent of African/Black American participants have a BMI of greater than 30, the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids and Spectrum Health have combined their expertise to create Sisters in Action. The program is a healthy lifestyle intervention for overweight or obese low-income African/Black American women within Grand Rapids’ inner city.

Sisters in Action will serve African/Black American women age 16 and older that have a BMI of 25-55. One hundred sixty women will be enrolled for a six-month session and each will be pre-screened to assess their ability to safely participate in the program.’

“Spectrum Health’s HeartReach’ program, Omni Health Faith Partnership and the Healthier Communities Department have built trusting relationships within many churches in the African/Black American community and have developed programs to engage African/Black American women in steps toward healthier lifestyles,” said Pam Chapman, community relations liaison with Spectrum Health HeartReach. “Sisters in Action builds on these relationships by creating a comprehensive program designed to enhance women’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviors as they improve their health.”

Two nights a week, program participants will be transported from their churches to the David D. Hunting YMCA where they will take part in both an education session and an exercise session. The program also includes opportunity for participants to utilize the YMCA’s “demonstration kitchen” for nutrition lessons. Child care including physical activities for older children will be provided for participants as needed.

“The program is designed to be intensive enough to maximize a participant’s weight loss success, yet flexible enough to allow women to overcome barriers to achieving healthier lifestyles,” said Jan Wierenga, senior vice president, YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids.’ “Each woman and her family will receive a free membership to the YMCA.”

Funding for the Sisters in Action program was secured by the Spectrum Health Foundation through a national competitive process from the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Only through bringing together the strengths within the community can we hope to truly improve the health of all residents. This program was designed by African/Black Americans, specifically for African/Black American women,” added Chapman. “Sisters In Action is an easily replicated model that demonstrates that church leaders, a health care system and the YMCA can come together to create comprehensive, long-term improvements in the health of our participants and their families.”

Spectrum Health HeartReach is a comprehensive school- and community-based heart and stroke education and intervention service to address the root causes of preventable disease, particularly in minority populations. This is accomplished through five major avenues: heart health and stroke prevention; education; advocacy; research; and tobacco cessation/policy issues.

Founded in 1866, the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids is composed of seven branches that serve 118,468 in the greater Grand Rapids community. YMCA core programs include; aquatics, camping, child care, family, health and wellness, leadership development, arts and humanities, Service-Learning, and youth/adult sports. All program curriculum is structured to develop the YMCA’s Core Values of Caring, Honesty, Respect, and Responsibility. The vision of the YMCA is to be the community leader in building strong kids, strong families, and strong communities.

Spectrum Health is a not-for-profit health system in West Michigan that offers a full continuum of care through its seven hospitals, more than 140 service sites and 460,000-member health plan, Priority Health. Spectrum Health’s 13,000 employees, 1,400 medical staff members and 2,000 volunteers are committed to delivering the highest quality care to those in medical need. The organization provided more than $100 million in community benefit during its 2006 fiscal year. Spectrum Health has earned numerous national awards including being ranked in Verispan’s listing of top 100 Integrated Healthcare Networks.