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Living healthier gets a big boost
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A month ago, a friend of mine told me she went to work out at a local gym one morning in early January, but it was so crowded, she couldn’t find a machine to use.

She said the manager told her: “Come back in a week or two and all these people who made New Year’s resolutions to lose weight won’t be here."

I would say that was a common scene at not only gyms around Statesboro, but Georgia and much of the nation, too. We all make plenty of resolutions that we fail to keep, and losing weight is probably at the top of the list.

So what makes so many of us promise ourselves we’re going to lose weight, but so easily then break that promise? Lack of willpower? Too easily distracted from our goal? Not really committed?

Experts probably would say it is a combination of all the above and more, but the folks at Canyon Ranch have boiled it down to this:  Unless you commit yourself to a program of changing your lifestyle choices to pursue a plan of wellness, the chances of any of us succeeding in truly improving our overall health is very, very difficult to achieve.

Canyon Ranch was founded in 1979 by Enid and Mel Zuckerman in Tucson, Arizona. Mel Zuckerman has described the Ranch’s goal as to help people “make a long-lasting personal and emotional connection to wellness.”

Twenty-five years ago, Charles Morris, the owner of the Statesboro Herald and Morris Multimedia, was convinced by his wife Rosalie to go to Canyon Ranch to improve their own health.

And during a luncheon Wednesday at the Morris Center in Savannah, the Morrises announced they were partnering with Connect Savannah to bring the Canyon Ranch Institute’s Life Enhancement Program to Savannah to help improve the long-term health and wellness of a targeted group of underserved city residents.

The Zuckerman’s founded the Canyon Ranch Institute about 10 years ago in an effort to bring the best practices of the Canyon Ranch to communities around the nation. Areas where the Institute has implemented wellness programs include the South Bronx in New York City, rural Sullivan County in Missouri and inner city Tucson.

Dr. Richard Carmona was Surgeon General for the United States from 2002 to 2006 and he is president of Canyon Ranch Institute. Based on his decades of medical experience, Carmona perhaps best summarized one of the primary problems of our nation’s health care system when he said during Wednesday’s luncheon: “We don’t have health care, we have sick care.”

Carmona said instead of waiting until people get sick to treat them, we need much more of a focus on preventive health care so fewer people get chronic illnesses in the first place.

But educating individuals, particularly underserved, underinsured and poorer people, about the real benefits of a healthier lifestyle is, it seems, a nearly impossible battle. That is exactly what the Morrises see in Savannah and that’s why, Charles Morris said, they wanted to bring Canyon Ranch Institute to their hometown.

“We have lived here for more than 40 years and raised our children here,” he said. “We think we have a wonderful community and we want to make it better by making it healthier.”

So, a little more than six months ago, representatives of the Institute began coming to Savannah to research the needs and recruit local staff to help implement its Life Enhancement Program. In a nutshell, the program is made up of seven core elements: integrative health, behavior change, social support, stress management, sense of purpose, nutrition and physical activity.

The Institute will collaborate with the Curtis V. Cooper Primary Health Care Center, which provides health services to 17,000  uninsured and underinsured clients in Savannah. Albert Grandy, CEO of Cooper, said 12,000 of the clients are identified as obese and that puts them at most risk for type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and other chronic ailments.

A group of Cooper clients soon will be selected to enroll in an intensive 12-week program using the core elements mentioned above to change basic habits of how they live. Statistics from the programs in other areas of the country where the Institute has been show the changes are long-lasting for many of the program participants, immeasurably improving their quality of life.

Savannah and southeast Georgia is the next destination for the Institute program thanks to the vision and generosity of Charles and Rosalie Morris. None of the Cooper clients in the program will pay anything to participate in the program. The Morrises have underwritten everything.

As an employee for the past 11+ years of the company owned by Charles Morris, that makes me pretty proud. The Morrises  recognize, of course, that the Life Enhancement Program is the first step in what they hope becomes a larger community focus in Savannah and southeast Georgia on adopting healthier lifestyles. But it’s a heck of a first step.

Now about that gym membership...

Jim Healy is operations manager for the Statesboro Herald. He may be reached at (912) 489-9402.

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