McMinnville Tackles Obesity Epidemic through Prescriptions

McMinnville , TN | January 2013 | By National Recreation and Park Association

McMinnville Tackles Obesity Epidemic through Prescriptions 410

The tiny city of McMinnville (population 18,000) is making efforts to shrink its citizens. In a region where obesity is a prevalent health concern, this community has targeted nutrition as a key area in need of improvement. A collaborative was formed between McMinnville Parks and Recreation, Warren County School System, and River Park Hospital to reverse local obesity trends. 

The group found success by engaging local physicians to provide “wellness prescriptions,” which address the increasing number of individuals who are overweight and obese. As a result, patients and physicians will now work together to determine the specific frequency, intensity, time, and type of physical activity while establishing good nutritional practices like consuming more fruits and vegetables and fewer sugar-based beverages. 

While this comprehensive wellness prescription program is still in development, McMinnville has already jump-started a similar initiative with the Get Youth Moving Project (GYM), a physician-referral fitness and nutrition camp offered by the McMinnville Parks and Recreation Department. External funding from Middle Tennessee State University enables McMinnville Parks and Recreation Department to administer GYM. The purpose of GYM is to provide a safe, effective, and enjoyable fitness and nutrition program for children that have been identified as being overweight or obese by their physicians.

Supported by a strong partnership with River Park Hospital, a registered dietitian guides the healthy food menu for young participants and teaches them about good nutrition practices. Local physical educators and wellness personnel create fun fitness activities for the duration of the camp. Guest speakers discuss such issues as chronic disease, anti-bully tactics, media distortion of body image, bike safety, and alternative sports opportunities such as archery. The children track their physical activity steps daily utilizing pedometers, and they receive both organized lap swim sessions and free time in the swimming pool each day. 

With no vehicle transportation involved in the G.Y.M. initiative, the children enjoy walks to the farmer’s market to buy fresh produce and to the grocery store for a tour and discussion of good choices and label reading. They also discuss how to make healthy choices in the event that their family chooses fast-food dining. An additional positive aspect to the camp is free tuition for the children who are referred by a physician through joint efforts with the wellness coalition.

The coalition has had periods of frustration, but focusing on small steps rather than incremental changes has helped keep momentum going within the group. Having a professional – in this case the strong support of a dietician as well as the support of other community health providers -- has helped deliver the messages of healthy eating and healthy lifestyle choices.