June 22, 2009

Organizers push individual, systemic changes to improve health care

We can fix the national health care by reforming the current system or sparking a movement to live healthier. Ryan Gleason and Kelly Gallaher, both from Community for Change in Racine, are working both angles.

Working with the group Eat Right Racine, Gleason and Gallaher met with community residents on June 17 to kick off the Neighborhood Walk Program at the Humble Park Community Center. About 20 people attended the event, which is designed to educate participants on living healthier and then bring people together for a group walk through the neighborhood.

Organizers, who also included Amanda DeSonia of Eat Right Racine, couldn't have picked a better location for the event. The meeting was held in the middle of several youth sports events and Humble Park was teaming with active families and children enjoying outside activities.

It's the type of community-based health care the Neighborhood Walk Program hopes to promote throughout the Racine area. But while organizers promote individual responsibility, they're also looking for Racine to weigh-in on the national debate over health care reform as Congress prepares to consider changes to how our system provides medical coverage.

Community for Change is hosting a "Community Conversation" on health care reform on Sunday, July 26 from 1-4 p.m. at the Masonic Center, 1012 Main St. in Racine.

The volunteer-driven event is designed to educate the public on competing plans for health care reform, gather local input on the debate and then send off a message to Washington D.C. to hopefully influence national discussions.

June 17's Neighborhood Walk Program was the continuation of a growing Racine-wide discussion on healthier living. Eat Right Racine is promoting better nutrition, particularly for children, and that's a prominent part of the six-week program based in Humble Park, which was chosen because of the strong support of Alderman Greg Helding. (Week 2 is Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Humble Park Community Center, 2200 Blaine Ave.)

Week 1 of the Neighborhood Walk Program focused on exercise. Marina Day, health and wellness coordinator at the YMCA, gave a talk on proper ways to get blood pumping and burn calories. Here's a couple of tips from Day:

1. Drink lots of water, but not Gatorade (unless you're doing high-intensity workouts for long periods of time).
2. Eat before exercising. If you workout with food in your stomach, you could end up burning muscle instead of fat.
3. Work in a variety of exercises. Washing and waxing the car, biking, dancing, water aerobics, shoveling and stair walking at home are all examples of exercises that will work the heart and muscles.

Day added that teen girls, in particular, should be encouraged to be active. While boys often are involved in sports, girls' activity tends to wane as they get older, she said.

To bring home the importance of exercise, Day said one in three Americans are overweight, 13.5 million suffer from heart disease and one in four people are not physically active. The message: We all could use some more exercise.

Here are photos from Week 1 of the Neighborhood Walk Program:

Marina Day talks about different levels of exercise. She recommended moderate exercise where you can feel the work, but you're not over-exerting yourself.

Participants walk in place and lift their arms over their heads. If you go out walking, Day said, exaggerate your arm and leg movements to get your blood pumping.

Following Day's session, the group went for a walk. Here they are at the end of the 15-minute walk around Humble Park.


  1. Day's number 2 does not make sense. Please re-read that one...about exercise and burning fat.

  2. Yes - working out can suppress the sensation of hunger, so eating before a workout defeats part of the purpose of a workout. In addition, food in the GI tract will cause more blood to be diverted there which does not lend itself well to a good workout. Finally, the pre-workout meal has implications in blood sugar levels, etc. while you are working out. Try eating a high-carbohydrate piece of fruit with low-fiber – a banana is perfect.

    Also, while I'm here, here are my two points:

    1. The sensation of hunger is very easily confused with the sensation of thirst. If you feel hungry, try drinking a glass of water
    2. The body often takes twenty minutes to feel sated after a meal, so be very careful eating until you feel "full" because you may end up over-full.