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Fitness for the faithful
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Sondra E.Z. Hines

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What comes to mind when you think of nutritious meals and physical fitness?

Probably not a church or place of worship.

If Cheryl Emanuel has her way, all that may change.

Emanuel, community health administrator for Mecklenburg County, created Village HeartBEAT (Building Education and Accountability Together), an aggressive grass-roots wellness initiative targeted to the Latino and African-American communities.

The newest VHB component is a partnership with local ministers to get their church folk healthy. The best part? The program is FREE!

“The church it is our village. It is the only structure found in virtually every community in this country,” she says. “It is a gatekeeper and an important conduit through which important preventive health information is able to reach people of all ages, races and economic backgrounds.”

Further, says Emanuel, ministers can strongly influence members to make better health choices.

Here’s how it works.

The program – which began this month – is soliciting 15 churches. Each would sign up 10 parishioners for a total of 150 participants citywide. To join, members must commit to the following: a one-on-one health assessment, follow a personalized workout plan (fitness classes, etc.), attend cooking demonstrations and receive CPR training.

To administer these programs, VHB has tapped many community resources, including Johnson C. Smith University, which will make access to its healthplex available.

To enroll, participants must be at least 18 and have one of the following risk factors: a smoker, obesity, high blood pressure/cholesterol, diabetes or be at risk for heart disease.

At last count, Emanuel had signed up 11 congregations. And there’s more. Beginning January 2014, the churches will compete in a 14-week challenge -- a fun, faith-based competition to see which church yields the best results.

I applaud Emanuel for this innovative program to make Charlotte healthier. Others have noticed too. Emanuel recently traveled to Atlanta to receive the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Faith and Community Health Excellence Award.

“It is a humbling and grateful experience to be acknowledged,” she says.

For more information on VHB, contact Emanuel weekdays at 704.432.0216, www.Villagehb.org, or email cheryl.emanuel@mecklenburgcountync.gov.

Qcity Headlines:

UNCF Walk for Education – Saturday, 11/2/13, 7:00 a.m. registration. Proceeds support UNCF 37 member HBCU’s, including local schools JCSU and Livingstone College. Details: http://give.uncf.org/site/TR/Events/General?fr_id=1840&pg=entry

Until next time, I wish you good health, joy and wellness!
Sondra E. Z. Hines, AFAA is an adjunct professor of health & wellness and certified to teach group fitness exercise and Zumba. Her column is published each Wednesday on Qcitymetro.com. Email: sondraezhines@yahoo.com.

Editors Note: For more health & fitness content, visit www.qcitymetro.com/health.

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October 5, 2015
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