Program enters second year of helping residents lose weight, live healthier lives

Published 12:45 am Thursday, June 8, 2017

By David Hamilton

NATCHEZ — The journey to a healthier lifestyle has started for a group of 100 local residents through the Diabetes and Heart Disease Prevention Program.

The program, in its second year, started in May and is currently in its third week. Last year’s class lost more than 300 pounds among its 22 graduates.

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“It’s a life-saver for many of them,” program director Getty Israel said. “They need the support.”

The program doubled in size  from last year’s initial class of 50 students, much of it because of the program’s previous success. There are 100 enrolled participants this year, and even more expressed interest.

Israel said she would take the additional enrollees, as she believes health education is much-needed in Adams County.

“What we need to do is change the culture here and in Mississippi,” Israel said.

Classes meet every Monday through Wednesday at the Natchez campus of Copiah-Lincoln Community College, where participants hit the books to learn about nutrition and then hit the exercise room. Participants choose to meet one day out of the week.

“To me, it’s about living,” participant Helen Hunter said.

Hunter has lost multiple siblings because of diabetes and said they are her greatest motivation for entering this program.

“It’s about health and wellness, and I know that if we eat right, we can live,” Hunter said.

Israel said while the program is meant to improve health in all facets of a diabetic’s life, the abdomen is especially vital for a healthy lifestyle.

“The goal is to help them lose weight overall, but particularly in the core section,” Israel said. “We do that through changing their diet and by getting them actively exercising.”

The hope is the program would reach more than just these participants, as wellness coach Demetric Felder said Wednesday night in an impassioned plea to his participants.

“Make a change for yourself first,” Felder said. “And then go help somebody else.”

The DHDPP is fully funded by the Humana Foundation, which has partnered with the City of Natchez to implement the program.