It was barely 10 a.m., and Yvette Thomas was enthusiastically leading a gym full of people in the Cupid Shuffle line dance.

Yet it wasn’t a dance class. Thomas, the fitness instructor for the Center for Community Health’s Family, Food and Fun program, was demonstrating one of the engaging ways families in Rochester’s affordable housing communities have learned to get fit.

The program was featured as part of the 2016 Urban Wellness Summit, which brought together more than 100 people Sept. 29 at the Maplewood YMCA.

The summit offers inspiration to neighborhood wellness activists and aims to promote healthier communities by sharing information about available programs. The summit is presented by the High Blood Pressure Collaborative, a partnership of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency.

This year’s keynote speaker was Dr. Sharon Allison-Ottey, a health strategist, author and researcher, who shared tips for nonprofits to be more effective in reaching out to the community.

“For all of the organizations here, if you in the city of Rochester can partner, if you can lean on each other, if you do projects together, you can never be broken,” Allison-Ottey said.

She noted that in order to have healthier communities, the area needs to have residents who understand what they can do to be healthier and clinicians and service providers who are culturally competent. She emphasized that patients and families need to be health literate – that is able to read medical information, understand it, and act upon what they have learned.

She recommended the Ask Me Three method from the National Patient Safety Foundation as a way to improve patients’ health literacy. The method aims to get patients to ask, “What is my main problem? What do I need to do? Why is it important for me to do this?”

She cited the example of her mother, who thought she was following her doctor’s orders of a low-salt diet and yet was adding briny ham hocks to her cooking. Her mother lacked health literacy when it came to the sources of salt in her diet, which prevented her from being able to lower her blood pressure, she noted.

“Empower people to save themselves,” Allison-Ottey said. “Tomorrow if you are not there, do you want them to turn back?”

In addition to Allison-Ottey, two local programs shared how they have promoted health literacy among residents in Rochester.

Cathy Little, community health coordinator of the Interdenominational Health Ministry Coalition shared how the coalition of urban churches has made progress in promoting healthier congregations. Buoyed by the success of IHMC programs, Little’s church received a $20,000 grant to open a community wellness center. Her church – In Christ New Hope Ministries - celebrated the center’s grand opening Sept. 24.

She noted that the wellness center was just one of several grants area churches have received to promote wellness.

She noted that collecting data to show results is key to attracting funding.

“Funders are not just giving out money just to give it out,” Little said, noting that the church receives support in tracking its results from FLHSA.

Documenting results is also a key part of the Family, Food and Fun program, which aims to address health disparities that lead people from some economically challenged neighborhoods to die prematurely, said Candice Lucas, director of Community Health Services and Cancer Services Program of Monroe County at the University of Rochester’s Center for Community Health.

The program takes into account the social determinants of health as it aims to help people get healthier.

“People don’t have to worry about leaving to go anywhere,” Lucas said. “They don’t have to worry about a gym membership or trying to take care of kids. All of that is taken care of.”

Florence Clemmons, manager of the Foodlink's Curbside Market program, speaks with Jill Stolt of Wellventions as she shows her around the mobile farmer's market.

Local food bank Foodlink also shared information about its programs. Foodlink offers the Cooking Matters curriculum in the Family, Food and Fun program, as well as a host of other programs. The nonprofit also brought its mobile food market to the summit, so that attendees could see how the truck brings fresh foods to locations where it would not be feasible to start a traditional farmer’s market.

“Our vision is to leverage the power of food to create a healthier community, by striving to eliminate the root cause of hunger,” said Phil Shippers, director of member programs and services for Foodlink.

In addition to Foodlink’s focus on food as a path to health, attendees to the summit also received gift bags from the American Heart Association which featured heart-healthy cookbooks.

In the headlines

El Mensajero Catolico - Oct. 13, 2016 - Doctor stresses health literacy, cultural competency