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Creating Healthy Communities

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – Creating healthy communities is the goal of a brand new program supported by the Independent Health Foundation. Good for the Neighborhood is a three year project to encourage healthier live styles on Buffalo's East and West Sides, Niagara Falls and on the Seneca Nation's Cattaraugus Reservation.

44% of adults living on Buffalo's East Side are obese. 37% of adults in Niagara Falls smoke, and nearly half of all Seneca Indians suffer from Diabetes.

Armed with those stats, the Foundation decided to spend $2 million to tackle those medically at risk communities. But it will no longer be in the form of health fairs and screenings. Instead Good for the Neighborhood will bring health and wellness programs to schools and community centers for all ages.

Diane Becker is professor of Medicine at John Hopkins University. Becker says the program has the potential to be a role model for other communities across the nation.

"You are in an area with an extremely high diabetes and cardiac vascular rate. So this is very exciting because it is a comprehensive community based approach to wellness. In the long run, it should reduce health care costs and improve the quality of life," said Becker.

And Becker says with proper monitoring systems in place, the program should be a big success. Citizens will be encouraged to go to the doctor on a regular basis, exercise, quit smoking and eat the right foods. Chef Dale Holt says people need to learn how to cook healthier.

"When we open doors to teach alternative ways of eating and preparing foods, it makes you slow down, and it makes you take your time, that yes you must boil some water instead of going to the microwave," said Holt.

Holt was demonstrating some of his healthy dishes. He cooked up a vegetarian jambalaya that Buffalo Mayor Bryon Brown tried for his lunch.

"This is absolutely delicious, and it seems like a very health alternative", noted Brown.

Jennifer Mitchell, of Weight Watchers says the rice dish was a healthy selection. "It is full of vegetables with tons of fiber I think it is great," said Mitchell.

Weight Watchers is teaming up with the Independent Health Foundation for this project to offer their weight loss system to the Good for the Neighborhood program free of charge.