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Board of Health launches outreach program

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

As local unemployment levels rise, uninsured citizens are seeking the wellness services of the Clayton County Board of Health (CCBOH) in greater numbers.

In an effort to address the myriad of health issues impacting the county -- particularly cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and stress -- the board is introducing a free health outreach program to the greater community.

The recently established Healthy Behaviors Program, will make its "Mind, Body & Soul Series" available to Clayton County residents starting in the new year. The wellness program, already being utilized by board of health employees, will connect residents to resources for free health screenings, educational workshops, healthy-eating seminars, and support groups organized by health-education coordinators.

Dr. Alpha Fowler Bryan, district health director for Clayton County, said the program may assist in keeping residents healthy, despite the rough economy. "I feel that, due to the harsh economic times we all are experiencing, a program such as the healthy behavior, total wellness program, will at least provide our community and staff with an additional free health care resource tool," said Bryan in a written statement.

The program was recently made possible by a $299,368 grant from the Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Public Health. Last Thursday, the board of health kicked off the program for its employees, introducing them to several healthy holiday dishes, such as low-fat peach cobbler and sweet potato fries, raisin-carrot salad, using yogurt as a base instead of mayonnaise, and banana nut bread, using whole wheat rather than bleached flower.

Jamie Carlington, public information officer for the Healthy Behaviors Program, said the foundation of the effort is educating people and making them aware of healthier lifestyles.

"We want to make sure that our people are just as healthy as the people we are treating," said Carlington. "By educating our employees, we are going to use them as our health care ambassadors, and they can take some of this information out into the community."

Carlington said many physical ailments are brought on by stress, and thus, the program is taking "a more holistic approach" by connecting people to mental, as well as, physical health resources.

She said the program will also reach out to existing agencies to make sure Clayton residents are more aware of the resources already at their disposal.

Ultimately, Carlington hopes the program will alleviate some of the financial strain being placed on the board of health, by stopping some sicknesses before they happen.

"[When residents become unemployed, they "lose their health insurance, so they come to the Board of Health to fulfill some of those health care needs," said Carlington. "This can help offset some of the cost" and help the community understand "that the Clayton County Board of Health is a resource for them, not just when times are hard."

For more information regarding the Healthy Behaviors Program, call (678) 610-7693.