April 25, 2017
In April, more than 500 participants joined the Institute for Healthy Living (IHL) to celebrate the 2nd annual HEAL Week. HEAL Week was established in 2016 to raise awareness for the importance of healthy eating and active living in preventing disease, provide continuing education to healthcare providers in the areas of nutrition and obesity, and celebrate IHL partners dedicated to increasing healthy eating and active living in the Paso del Norte region. Four major events made up the 2017 HEAL Week including the HEAL Alliance Kick-Off, HEAL Celebrate Reception, HEAL U: Obesity Mini Course, and HEAL Unite: Community Wellness Fair. The HEAL Alliance Kick-Off was the launch of the new HEAL Alliance, a collective of coalitions, councils, task forces, and working groups focused on nutrition and physical activity in the region. Groups range from the County Trail Task Force, Food Policy Council, Border Coalition for Fitness and the Regional School Lunch Coalition. Some groups have been in existence for many years, while others are newly formed with leadership from the IHL. The purpose of the Alliance is to coordinate the work of these multiple organizations to help make healthy eating and active living the easy choice in the Paso del Norte region.
HEAL Celebrate Reception was hosted to highlight the work of the IHL and its many partners over the last year. Dr. Diana Natalicio, UTEP President, and Tracy Yellen, Paso del Norte Health Foundation CEO addressed the value of community partnerships to tackle a range of complex issues from food insecurity to diabetes that are at the center of the IHL’s work. Bruce Parsons, Assistant Health Director for the City of El Paso and IHL Executive Council Member, presented the first annual HEAL Hero award to UTEP’s Physical Fitness in the Golden Age program for its impact on physical activity in the region. Dr. Sandor Dorgo, director of the program and Associate Professor in the UTEP Department of Kinesiology, along with several of his staff and program participants, were on-hand to receive the award. The Golden Age fitness program started over 11 years ago with seed funding from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation and in-kind support from UTEP. Now fully self-sustaining, the program supports adults 55 years of age and older through a comprehensive fitness program that aims to improve overall health and functional ability, and maintain independent living and mobility with support from program supervisors and Kinesiology undergraduate students. Over 800 adults have participated and 1,500 students have received training in the program since it began. HEAL U: Obesity Mini Course was a continuing education opportunity for health care providers. Over 120 professionals from the region participated in a free training opportunity led by top physicians and scientists in the areas of nutrition, physical activity, and obesity. Among the speakers were members of the IHL Scientific Advisory Board who are nationally and internationally recognized leaders in their fields. These presentations were complimented by a mock patient consult and a patient panel, where providers learned how to help patients with weight management, nutrition, and physical activity. Physician, nursing, dietitian, and public health professional continuing education credits were available. Finally, the HEAL Unite: Community Wellness Fair was a family-friendly event open to the public and held at the UTEP Student Recreation Center. Over 200 community members attended. The primary purpose of this event was to provide IHL community partners an opportunity to showcase their programs and projects related to HEAL. In addition, free health screenings were available to attendees and included body composition analysis, blood pressure checks, blood glucose testing, and VEGGIE METERTM assessment. Additional partners at the event offered UTEP Student Recreation Center tours, massages, bike rides, child id card printing, healthy food samples, games, bounce houses, music, a free raffle drawing, and more. The Hospitals of Providence partnered with the IHL to support this event.
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