A little more than 10 years ago, the community of Clio faced daunting statistics about their community’s health. People living in the 48420 zip code had higher rates of stroke, cancer, diabetes than most any other part of Genesee County. They also ranked as least fit, with 42.9% of residents considered overweight and 37.8% considered obese. “The good news is the community is responding extremely well,” Nate Jonker said in an MLive article from 2008. “Everyone is saying, ‘Let’s do something about this.’” And do something they did.
A “Healthy Community Initiative” was born with the help of many state and local organizations, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Jonker, a former state representative, served as director of the initiative. The grassroots effort provided research and community activities intended to increase health outcomes in the area. It was a comprehensive effort focused on a wide variety of interest areas including health, community, economy, safety, environment, recreation, education, and arts, history and culture. The initiative was honored as a “Regional Center of Excellence” by then Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Community events were planned at local parks to draw people in and help showcase local recreation opportunities. Dietitian-led tours of the local grocery store were rolled out to residents helping them read labels and understand the connection between diet and good health. “It’s amazing how much information parents need today because there are so many choices,” Jonker said. The initiative eventually drew a Hamilton Community Health Network clinic to town, which helped low-income residents access health care. An urgent care facility and counseling center also set up shop, meaning people didn’t have to travel as far for services. “We brought health care closer to the people,” Jonker said.
Other wins included the establishment of an ongoing farmers market, more programming at the local arts center, a salad bar and fresher food on the middle school menu and a weekend food program which ensures kids have food to eat when school isn’t in session. The community worked with the county health department on a smoking cessation program and even made sure firefighters had more access to fitness opportunities. Efforts were made to help the homeless population in the area. Leadership training was offered to build capacity for other organizations in the area to improve programming toward the overall goal of improved community health. “By creating more partners, we created more participation,” Jonker said. Now, the grassroots movement is honing in on the youth in the community. The Youth Health and Fitness Fund of the Clio Area was established in 2018 with the aim of helping youth and their families pursue healthy activities. The group has done this by focusing on activities people can take part in for a lifetime such as golf, tennis, walking and running. A youth golf academy was established along with reduced price golf equipment offered by the Clio country club. Scholarships are available for young people who want to participate at the Youth Sports Complex in the summer and healthy eating and education efforts are taking place during baseball and soccer games that take place there. Two races are planned, sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. The Clio Can-Do 5K takes place on Saturday, June 22 with a start and finish at the Clio High School Football Stadium. A second 5K “color run” will take place in October. “Our goal is that the family takes part in some physical activities together,” he said. Revenues will support the Clio Cross Country Summer Camp, the Carter Middle School After-School Club, the Compassionate Life Foundation and the programs of the Youth Sports Complex. Be part of the community transformation by signing up for the Clio Can-Do 5K and taking part on June 22. Like this post? Read these:
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All photos courtesy Nate Jonker