How to live well in Waco: New project aims to encourage good habits
By Sandra Sanchez
Increasing exercise habits, promoting healthy nutrition and workplace environments, and improving mental stability will be touted at a free kickoff party Sept. 15 on the banks of the Brazos River. The new Live Well Waco Project is a yearlong effort to encourage all these good habits.
Planning has been in the works for several months for the project, a collaboration among officials with the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, YMCA of Central Texas, local medical professionals, representatives from Baylor University, area school districts and several nonprofit groups.
Fashioned after get-fit campaigns in other cities such as Tyler, Live Well Waco aims to educate, empower and aid Central Texans to have healthier lives.
Kayaking will be among the activities offered during the Live Well Waco kickoff.
Live Well Waco has five components:
• Work Well — improve workplace health.
• Be Well — reduce chronic illnesses like diabetes and high blood pressure.
• Eat Well — encourage healthy nutrition to promote better health.
• Think Well — improve mental stability and spiritual wellness.
• Play Well — increase physical activities to lower weight, reduce illnesses and enjoy life more.
Several of the categories overlap but put together, the message is clear: improve all-around health in Waco for adults and children.
“We do realize that the choices that we make at home sometimes don’t overlap at the work site, so using this five-prong approach, we’re hoping to be able to reach people everywhere in Waco,” said Tiffani Johnson, lead health services coordinator and Live Well Waco Project co-facilitator for the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District.
That’s easier said than done, however, which is why collaborators are relying on a communitywide effort to take on this task.
“We need everyone’s input and expertise to reach the community,” said health district spokeswoman Kelly Craine. “We want this to be not a health district thing, but our community coming together to make ourselves better.”
This campaign was initially started by the health district-sponsored Power of Prevention Coalition, which focuses on improving area health disparities. The coalition organizes healthy public programs, such as a summer empowerment camp for preteen girls called Bounce, and local cooking classes. The Live Well Waco Project this past year became an offshoot of the coalition and includes several other organizations after the project was approved for federal funding.
“We are joining forces,” Armando Galindo, the district’s health services coordinator, told about 25 people assembled for a May 24 planning meeting. “This is a win-win for all.”
Aerobic exercise is considered a great way to improve a person’s health. Doing more physical activities is one aspect of the Live Well Waco Project that kicks off this month.
The Live Well Waco Project strives to challenge and encourage residents to improve their health, Johnson said.
In Waco, 37 percent to 40 percent of children are overweight, according to a 2010 community needs assessment conducted by the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District. In McLennan County, 60 percent of adults are overweight and more than 50 percent suffer from high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol levels, the study found.
“We want to emphasize and give to everyone — not only those who can afford it — the ability to get healthy,” Johnson said.
Managing weight can be difficult in this struggling economy, health officials concede. It’s made even harder when two-parent working households take on extra jobs and families struggle to buy healthy ingredients or to find time to cook healthy meals.
Free cooking demonstrations will be among the activities offered at the Sept. 15 Live Well Waco kickoff party from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Brazos Park East on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The event also will include games for children, lots of physical exercise and informative material.
“There will be lots of healthy eating tips, cooking demonstrations and educational tools. Experts will talk about portion control and portion sizes,” said Margo Shanks, health services coordinator for the health district and Live Well Waco co-project facilitator.
The health district hopes to reach all ages with its message of living better.
Massage therapists will be on hand to offer calming techniques. Aerobic classes, Zumba and kickboxing will be offered, as well as kayaking and paddle boarding.
“We want this to provide people the opportunities to think about exercise and play and positive psychology activities in a free and open setting,” Craine said.
Funded by a $235,000 federal Community Transformation Grant approved by the state, health officials hope this project will spur a new attitude in Waco toward living well.
Several activities will be planned throughout the next year, and hopefully for the following four years, Craine said. Locations and dates are still being worked out, but a website will be launched in September and maintained to update and encourage residents to seek a healthier lifestyle, she said.
Examples of website postings might include dates and locations for group walks, free cooking demonstrations, city-sponsored 5K runs, and bicycle or watercraft clinics.
Officials hope this project will gain popularity like Tyler’s Fit City Challenge, which is promoted by the Tyler Morning Telegraph newspaper. The Tyler newspaper’s website has a Fit City Challenge tab that highlights local participants, gives nutritional tips and discount coupons, and advertises upcoming activities.
Johnson said the idea to start Live Well Waco occurred after the head of the Northeast Texas Public Health District came to Waco and gave a talk to local health officials about how well Tyler’s program is working.
“That encouraged us to find something here, and that is what started the Live Well Waco Project,” Johnson said.
Live Well Waco kickoff party
When, where: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 15 at Brazos Park East
What: Party to highlight Live Well Waco Project. Activities for children and adults include cooking demonstrations, healthy eating tips, massage therapy, aerobic classes, Zumba and kayaking.
More information: Call 750-5450 or visit online at waco-texas.com/cms-healthdepartment/
Billboards like this one encouraging physical activity will go up around town as part of the campaign to promote Live Well Waco.
Billboards part of campaign to promote Live Well Waco
The Live Well Waco Project will use a variety of media to promote healthier lifestyles in the community.
The image of a billboard (left) encouraging physical activity is one of nine different billboards that will go up around Waco, said Tiffani Johnson, Live Well Waco Project co-facilitator for the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District. Other billboards will address themes on healthy eating, heart health, obesity and smoking, she said.
The project also will use radio commercials and television spots to reach residents, she said. Another component is the Live Well Waco website, which will be online in mid-September.