A community problems calls for community solution when it comes to healthier living

Health Summit Slated for Tuesday, 9/22/15

By Rick Charmoli, Cadillac News, 9/19/15

CADILLAC — Three things that many people in Northern Michigan do are slowly killing them and costing everyone else money.

Cadillac Area YMCA Executive Director Dan Smith is one of the people who helped to plan the Moving Toward a Healthier Community health summit and he said there are three lifestyle choices that are really a concern. First is lack of exercise. The second is poor eating habits. Third is smoking.

Smith said those three things lead to four primary diseases: lung disease, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. These four diseases account for 50 percent of the deaths in the United States and also 75 cents of every $1 spent on health care.

Those are startling statistics. Here is another one: About 77 percent of Wexford County residents are either overweight or obese. Missaukee County’s rate is not far behind. These figures are taken from 2011 data compiled by Munson Health Cadillac Hospital, Smith said.

For that reason, a health summit will take place in Cadillac on Tuesday with one goal: to make our community a healthier place.

“We overbook ourselves and don’t exercise,” Smith said. “We order unhealthy foods at meetings or when we are away on business,” he said. “(The obesity rates) tell us this is at epidemic proportions. We need to make it easier for us. How do we make it easier to make good exercise choices and diet choices?”

As part of the summit, Dr. Nick Yphantides, M.D., will share his weight loss journey and his commitment to advocating for children’s health.

Yphantides once weighed 467 pounds. In 2001, he loaded his RV and began a 38,000-mile journey through all 50 states. When he was done, he weighed 270 pounds.

It was a drastic move, he states on his website. But he had to address his health issues to better serve his patients. Yphantides is the chief medical officer of the San Diego (California) Community Health and Human Services Agency. The life-changing story of his transformation, with large doses of humor, has made him a “poster boy for YMCA advocacy” and sensible weight loss. He is also now a leading health advocate and national speaker.

The open forum will also feature local speakers with the goal of promoting community collaboration and policies to promote lifestyle improvement.

District Health Department No. 10 Health Planner Donna Norkoli also was part of the planning committee for the summit, and she said community collaboration is imperative if real change is going to take place. She also said sometimes change is hard but necessary.

“No one agency alone can solve this problem,” she said. “We need to see how we can collaborate so we can be working together to solve the problem.”

Norkoli said ultimately, this is a project of the Cadillac Area Health Coalition, and the hope is that the summit will give the group a focus and purpose. She also said some of the things that potentially come from the health summit may not be popular with everyone. She pointed to the recent controversy surrounding the city of Cadillac and its smoking ban within city parks.

“This is the dilemma we always face,” Norkoli said. “This is a public health issue, and we are not discriminating or telling people they cannot smoke. That is not our job, and that is their choice (if they want to smoke). There are spots, though, that their smoking may affect the health of other people.”

She also said things such as putting in more sidewalks or bike paths also could be examples of things that could be done to promote healthier living. While it may have a direct impact on your taxes, Norkoli also said it likely could increase property values, and it likely will benefit you more than it costs.

“We are looking at it as an investment in the health of the community,” she said.

Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Prevention and Community Coordinator Leilani Kitler said for this to work, people will need to buy in, and that means using everyone’s ideas and not just a select few. She said that is true regardless if they are addressing issues associated with obesity and physical well-being or even mental health.

“Without the community buy-in from the beginning, it won’t happen,” she said. “You really have to use their motivation so they are willing to make all the changes.”