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Healthy Change Initiative

Healthy Changes Initiative –an exercise program for people suffering from chronic conditions (diabetes, obesity, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis), cancer patients
and survivors and Seniors.

The Healthy Changes Initiative is a highly successful exercise program targeted to people suffering from chronic conditions – diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and rheumatoid arthritis – and also to cancer patients and cancer survivors as well as seniors age 65 and over.  It has been operating for three years.  It has demonstrable success at attracting people and retaining them into a long term program of regular exercise, helping them manage, contain, and improve their conditions.  It offers discounted membership ($10 a month) to IROC’s sports center, fitness center, and pool (and all of its programs) on a “use it or lose it” basis.  Each month the participant must exercise at least 12 times in order to earn the next month’s discount.  There are no excuses accepted for failing to meet this requirement.  However, participants can “buy back” into the program by paying for the next month at $30 and exercising 12 times.  Year two and thereafter, the monthly charge is $20. 

Referral sources include area physicians, North Country Hospital’s Wellness Center, and Weight Watchers.  Participation now averages approximately 200 qualifying individuals each month (plus family members).  Over 54% of those who enroll in the program stay with it for at least a year.  We know that 80% of all health care expenditures go to provide care to people suffering from chronic conditions.  Demonstrably successful programs such as Healthy Changes Initiative have the potential of helping to contain the growth of health care costs and significantly improve the quality of life of its participants.

IROC is a non-profit, tax exempt, 54,000 square foot facility in Derby, Vermont.  It has been built largely with private donations and is located in one of the most beautiful but also one of the poorest and most rural areas of Vermont – an area suffering from chronically high unemployment rates, high poverty levels, high rates of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and smoking, and an increasingly senior population.  IROC has a membership assistance program to assure that all low income Vermonters have access to the facility and its programs.  The Healthy Changes participants are predominantly low income Vermonters.  IROC now has about 6,500 regular users of the facility.  This amounts to over 20% of our area’s total population. 
The “use it or lose it” aspect of the Healthy Changes Initiative appears to be the key to its success.  It has a wide range of possible applications, i.e. to employee wellness programs, discounted health insurance programs and preventative exercise programs for seniors.  If Healthy Changes continues to demonstrate high retention rates, it is expected that this model will be replicated in other areas of Vermont and beyond, as the public focuses more of its attention to prevention and management of chronic conditions. 

Participant fees cover only about 10% to 15% of all program costs.  The primary fundraising vehicles for covering the remaining costs of the program are IROC’s summer series of special outdoor recreational athletic events, including the Dandelion Run, Tour de Kingdom, Kingdom Swim, and Kingdom Triathlon and our newest program Kingdom Thunder,

Healthy Changes Initiative – Page Two

Each year at our annual meeting in February we reward a few people for the example they set for all of us.  In 2009 we gave awards to three people who have participated actively in our Healthy Changes Initiative.  Their stories give some indication of its value in changing people’s lives in a major way.  The following is taken from our 2009 Annual Report --

An Inspiration to Us All

What is amazing about exercise is that just a little of it on a daily basis makes such a huge difference.  Just walking every day builds our muscles, maintains flexibility and balance, improves our cardiovascular system, and increases the blood flow to your organs to help them function better – even our brains!!!  Bring a buddy and it can be an enjoyable and rewarding way to spend some time together.  Start slow, keep it simple and you’re on your way.  Take on new challenges every few months and, before you know it, you’re doing things you never thought were possible. 

And so we honor and celebrate those who provide an Inspiration to Us All.  Last year we honored Loretta Hunt.  Well into her 80’s she walks every day and has more energy than many people half her age.  This year the Award goes to several recipients.

Our first Recipient is Leo Dagesse.  Leo started walking at IROC in 2004. At that time he was suffering from high blood pressure and high blood sugar levels. According to Leo it was his daughter Lisa who inspired him to start a low impact exercise routine. Out of that initial push from Lisa, Leo now walks around 20 miles a week. Over the course of his 4 years of walking at IROC he has lost 25lbs, currently maintains a healthy weight and now, according to his doctor, no longer suffers from high blood pressure or high blood sugar levels.  Leo, because of your continued effort at IROC and the results you have achieved, you have certainly become an Inspiration to Us All.  As part of this recognition, a gift certificate has been given to you from Griff’s Pub located in Derby.

The second Recipient (or Recipients) of our Inspiration to Us All Award is Sherie and Steve Lucas.  Steve started working out at IROC about 2 years ago; and he realized a small amount of success. His wife Sherie started her program at IROC after a scare from her doctor. After her appointment and receiving news that would scare anybody, she realized something had to be done immediately. Steve and Sherie made a pact they were going into this fitness notion head on and doing it together. The Lucases changed not only their physical activities and habits, but also realized that it’s only in combination with their diet habits that this program would work. To date they have gotten their sugar levels in check, have reduced their blood pressure to a level that would rival a much younger person, and, combined, have lost over 95 lbs. They push each other, monitor each other, and support each other. When asked what other activities do you enjoy, Steve said, “We don’t snowmobile, we don’t ski, we IROC it”. Now that’s inspirational to us all.  A gift has been generously donated by East Mane of Newport to both Sherie and Steve Lucus for their effort and their lifestyle change.