Building Bridges: Healthy Communities Initiatives

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By West Cook YMCA

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The West Cook YMCA's Healthy Communities Initiatives brings the YMCA's services out into the community to the people who need it most. Whether it's through local partnerships or the new Diabetes Prevention Program, the Y is becoming a health resource for the 10 communities in our service area.

"We're enlarging our focus at the Y. Instead of focusing on wellness from an individual standpoint, we're moving right into the community. We see ourselves as an extension of the healthcare and academic systems, as a vibrant part of the community," explains West Cook YMCA President and CEO Phillip Jiménez

Through health fairs, screenings and assessments, the Y's partnership with Westlake Hospital and the Westlake Health Foundation aims to improve the health and lifestyles of residents of Proviso Township and Northlake Village.

Dr. Marta Alvarado, Director of Community Services for Westlake Hospital, notes that through the partnership with the Y, Westlake holds several screening events each month to allow underinsured or uninsured persons to benefit from health assessments that play an important role in disease prevention and treatment.

"At our health fairs, we provide finger stick glucose screening, blood pressure and bone density screenings that can give us almost immediate results. We can make recommendations right then and there based on what those readings tell us. For other testing that requires lab work, such as blood draws for glucose levels or prostate tests, we immediately call the individuals with results that need their attention and then follow up with a letter indicating that they had, what we term, a critical result," Dr. Alvarado said.

Dr. Alvarado notes that after the health screenings, individuals with results that require further attention are offered three options for following up on their care. When test results indicate medical care is needed, the hospital can recommend a physician referral service. Another option is a referral to a local, federally-qualified health clinic, and for those who are uninsured or under-insured, Westlake can provide information on obtaining access to care.

Three fall events are designed to bring screenings to women, men and Latino seniors. Just for You will address women's health issues on Wednesday, September 23 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Midwest Conference Center/Concord Place, 401 W. Lake St., Northlake, IL 60164. The event kicks off Breast Cancer Awareness month in October with Westlake's annual free mammogram campaign.

Jiménez notes that the YMCA's Diabetes Prevention Program is another way the Y is helping people live the healthiest life

A year-long 25-session program uses a U.S. Centers for Disease Control curriculum to help adults at high risk of developing Type Two diabetes reduce their disease risk. The program aims to empower participants through classroom support and education on diet and exercise.

"As part of our initiative to help people become more health literate on their own, we're also partnering with Jewel Osco. Our registered dieticians will accompany participants to the store, help them shop and read labels and learn how to make healthy choices. This is a free part of the Y's new Diabetes Prevention Program," Jiménez said.

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