(Sept. 13, 2019) Worcester County government will launch a new program, Worcester Wellness Weight (WWW), to combat obesity using a grant from the Maryland Community Health Resources Commission.
The program, beginning Sept. 23, is free for Worcester County residents who are overweight or obese. The program’s purpose is to help county residents lose weight, eat healthier, increase physical activity and improve stress and time management skills.
According to Summer Widmeyer, a health department public affairs specialist, 2016 data from a youth risk behavior survey shows that 13.6 percent of Worcester County high school students are obese, while 16 percent are overweight and 36.8 percent of adults 18 years and older are obese. With this information in mind, the health department saw a need for a wellness program.
Travis Brown, the health department public information officer, said that the program will “try to tackle this in a new and innovative way using some online learning, educational models, different technology. It will take a new high-tech approach to nutrition and fitness education.” He added that the program is designed to be as easy and as accessible as possible.
For 12 weeks, participants will work with a personal physical education coach and a nutrition coach through apps. Widmeyer said that the physical education coaches are interns from Salisbury University and the nutrition coaches are from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
Brown added that WWW teaches “really great universal skills like cooking, meal planning, portioning and knowing the ingredients going into what you’re eating.” There is a store tour component to encourage people to shop smarter and eat healthier. There’s a food budgeting component as well. The department hopes that families in particular will join WWW.
“The kids are picking up these skills when they’re young,” Brown said. “It’s something we’re hoping leads to a lifetime of healthy habits.”
Melody Macinnis, a Salisbury University student who will serve as a physical education coach, is excited to help provide resources through WWW.
“Worcester Wellness Weigh is an amazing opportunity for families to begin their fitness journey and gain the knowledge and assistance required to make lifelong changes,” Macinnis said.
She added that WWW also will help her reach her goal of working as an occupational therapist.
“There’s so much value in practical experience and working with others that enhance the classroom education,” Macinnis said.
Though the majority of the program is online- and technology-based, Widmeyer there will be a couple group walks.
“They’re once a month where everyone can come together and meet up and motivate each other,” Widmeyer said.
She said that most participants are referred from Chesapeake Health. The deadline to register was Thursday, but Brown says that anyone interested should call the health department as there might still be space. Even if the program is full, there are still other programs and services the department can provide regarding to health and wellness, such as virtual grocery store tours and the “Just Walk Worcester” program.
The goal of the program is to increase the number of county residents reporting healthy “Body Mass Index,” general health improvements and greater participation in other county health services. Though this segment of the program will end, Widmeyer and Brown hope it will continue and expand.
“We’re data-driven and evidence-based with everything we do here,” Brown said. “We’ll see how this program fares and see how we might be able to change or improve for next year and get that overall snapshot of how this impacted people’s health.”
Those interested in WWW or other county health services should visit worcesterhealth.org or call (410) 632-1100.