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Fighting the Fat in Fargo as ND's Waistline Expands

PHOTO: With the growing obesity epidemic leading to more chronic disease and pushing up health-care costs across the country, a new strategy is emerging among some providers. CREDIT: Tony Alter
PHOTO: With the growing obesity epidemic leading to more chronic disease and pushing up health-care costs across the country, a new strategy is emerging among some providers. CREDIT: Tony Alter
June 25, 2013

FARGO, N.D. - With the growing obesity epidemic leading to more chronic disease and pushing up health-care costs across the country, a new strategy is emerging among some providers. At Family HealthCare in Fargo, according to registered dietitian Venessa Berg, patients can come in for a doctor visit, or they can stop by to get a workout.

"We have a fitness center on site and we have five AmeriCorps volunteers that are trained as health coaches, so they work individually one-on-one with patients to develop a goal and to work on their fitness," Berg said.

Since getting healthy includes both physical exercise and healthy eating, Berg said, they're also moving forward with a demonstration kitchen to help educate their patients, many of them poor or new to the United States.

"We have plans to do new-American classes, just kind of how to cook healthy, basic kind of stuff," as she described the program. "And then we've also talked with a local chef about doing some cooking classes (focused on) healthy substitutes and that sort of thing that anyone could do, and you don't have to spend extra money or go to culinary school."

The efforts by Family HealthCare also include a number of partnerships with community organizations, including the YMCA, which has options to help defray the cost of membership for low-income families.

"A lot of the people that we serve have never seen a treadmill before, for example," Berg noted. "So walking into a gym is a lot to ask of a person. So our coaches will escort them to the gym, show them how to use a machine, maybe introduce them to some staff there, and then help them fill out the scholarship form so they can become YMCA members."

New research says that about 10 percent of the growth in health care spending over the past quarter-century was due to the increasing number of Americans packing on the pounds. In North Dakota, nearly two people in three are overweight or obese.

More information is at bit.ly/12dXrMB and at bit.ly/12e0qV7.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND