Healthy Detroit: Creating a Positive Lifestyle for Local Residents

By: Toni Cunningham | September 29, 2014
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Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important for all of us, delicious food articles aside. Whether you’re a “health nut” or just someone looking to implement more health conscious decisions into your life, getting (and staying) on the right track can be difficult. Allow Healthy Detroit, a Detroit-based health organization, to be your guide.

Healthy Detroit strives to develop prevention-oriented communities within the city of Detroit and serves as a model public health organization for others. Founded in late 2013, the organization is an initiative of the National Prevention Strategy under the Affordable Care Act that provides Detroiters with education and resources needed to live healthy lifestyles.

Kirsten Bondalapati, vice president of operations at Healthy Detroit, said that a comprehensive focus is required when promoting preventative health, as all areas of our health and our lives affect one another. Several of the organization’s priorities include tobacco free living, preventing drug abuse and excessive alcohol abuse, healthy eating, active living, preventing injury and violence, reproductive and sexual health and mental and emotional well-being.

In order to provide Detroiters with a healthy lifestyle, Healthy Detroit has developed HealthParks throughout the city, where locals can enjoy typical park services, a farmers market, outdoor fitness centers and more.

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“HealthParks are year-round health and wellness hubs based in city parks with recreation centers. (They) combine innovative place-making and public health practices to provide state of the art facilities and programming to encourage healthy lifestyles for all ages,” Bondalapati said.

(Photo courtesy of Kirsten Bondalapati)

(Photo courtesy of Kirsten Bondalapati)

That includes sports fields, boxing clubs, health screenings, yoga, youth sports leagues, meditation classes, community gardens, walking clubs and more. Healthy Detroit is currently establishing three HealthParks in partnership with the City of Detroit Recreation Department: Farwell, Adams-Butzel and Patton.

In addition to HealthParks, Healthy Detroit Days are another implementation of the organization that offers full days of health programming. These events occur on a rotating basis at each of the HealthParks, as well as other venues throughout the year. The next one is scheduled for January 2015, so keep your eyes peeled for upcoming details!

Healthy Detroit Days programming is categorized into five zones, including healthy eating, healthy living, sports, fitness and healthy minds, all of which address areas of wellness for all ages.

“For example, when a family attends, the mother can talk to a physician, the father can buy fresh fruits and vegetables from a farm stand, and the kids can play basketball (or) take a dance class,” Bondalapati said. “It is more than a health fair, as we focus on engagement with an end goal that people interact, find something that works for them, and begin integrating these activities into their everyday lives.”

While HealthParks serve as Healthy Detroit’s main initiative, the organization has a network of over 40 local groups and organizations that work alongside it to improve public health programming across the city of Detroit. Healthy Detroit also has two university chapters, at Wayne State University and the University of Detroit Mercy.

(Photo courtesy of Kirsten Bondalapati)

(Photo courtesy of Kirsten Bondalapati)

“We support students in their own projects to promote health and wellness on campus as well as engage with their surrounding community. Through this network and the university chapters, Healthy Detroit is working to create a culture of healthy living and (working to) be a leader in effective public health practices,” Bondalapati said.

She added that it’s so important to promote healthy lifestyles to Detroit residents because the city has a huge opportunity to become an example of healthy living to other cities in the United States. Detroit has hundreds of city parks, and by transforming these under-utilized spaces into interactive, healthy and safe centers, Healthy Detroit hopes to reverse negative health trends.

Taking the first step to leading a healthier lifestyle begins with utilizing a variety of existing organizations and programs, according to Bondalapati.

“For example, Eastern Market is one of the largest farmers markets in the country and sells affordable fruits and vegetables. Some of our city recreation centers already boast ice rinks, boxing rings, sports fields, community gardens and afterschool programs for kids. Healthy living does not have to mean running a marathon. Joining a walking group, helping out in a community garden, meditating for 10 minutes a day, or participating in an informal sports league are all things (that) can shape a healthy lifestyle,” Bondalapati said.

Another great opportunity for getting your health on the right track is taking advantage of events that Healthy Detroit regularly hosts, like pop up yoga sessions, track workouts and Downtown Detroit run/walk events.

“Healthy Detroit partners with programs like Pop Up Yoga in order to bring their already successful endeavors to other areas in the city,” Bondalapati said, noting that the organization has worked with Pop Up Yoga to bring instructors to Southwest Solutions’ Piquette Square, a veterans housing building, to run fitness classes tailored to the needs of local veterans.

When it comes to partnerships, Healthy Detroit teams up with any health-related organization, from large health systems to single employee fitness businesses. The group is always looking for volunteers, and you can sign up to do so here.

“Healthy Detroit’s mission as public health advocate means we are always looking to collaborate in order to maximize impact,” Bondalapati said.

For more information on Healthy Detroit, and to stay updated on the latest projects, visit the organization’s official website or Facebook page.