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The Mayors Wellness Campaign three Years Later

We Are Making A Difference

Patricia Flannery
By Patricia Flannery
Mayor, Bridgewater
boy and man running after soccer ball
With the participation of more than half of New Jersey’s municipalities, the Mayors Wellness Campaign has encouraged citizens to be more active.

What do “The Biggest Loser” Bill Germanakos, Oprah Winfrey’s “Doctor-in-Residence” Mehmet Oz, former New Jersey Governor James Florio and his wife Lucinda, two towns in Tennessee and mayors all across the state have in common? They all have an association with one of the most successful wellness efforts ever launched in America: the League’s Mayors Wellness Campaign (MWC). (You’ll find the details at the end of this article.)

This spring marks the third anniversary of the Mayors Wellness Campaign and now more than half of all New Jersey mayors are working to get their citizens on the road to active living and healthier lifestyles. The Mayors Wellness Campaign, a partnership between the New Jersey State League of Municipalities and the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, has given mayors the tools we need to launch successful programs.

Here in Bridgewater, we feature the Mayors Wellness Campaign activities on the township web page (www.bridgewaternj.gov). Some of the activities we have recently sponsored through the MWC include:

Senior Dance Showcase The Bridgewater Roxies are a group of senior performers, ages 66 to 84, who are known throughout the community for their energetic dance performances. In conjunction with the Mayor’s Wellness Campaign, a senior dance showcase was created to highlight the efforts Bridgewater seniors are making to improve and maintain their health through the aerobic and creative movement of dance. The program was designed to inspire residents of all ages to get active.

The Roxies partner with the Belle Mead Ballet Company, ages 5 to 15, for some performances. Each group performes routines on their own as well as production numbers that had been created to bring both groups together performing as one. The event showed just how successful crosss-generational programs can be. Proceeds from the event went to support the work of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation.

Mayor’s Wellness Campaign Community Breakfast In October we invited residents to attend our “Mayor’s Wellness Campaign Community Breakfast.” We distributed free pedometers and participants were able to enjoy a healthy breakfast with friends and family—all while benefiting a good cause! Proceeds from the event went to the Central Jersey Food Bank. At the breakfast, residents were encouraged to sign the “Mayor’s Pledge to Wellness” in support of healthy lifestyle challenges.

Mayor Flannery’s Wellness Campaign Digital Cookbook Our website features a “digital cookbook” where residents can download healthy recipes, including Manhattan turkey chowder, vegetable bean soup with barley and chick pea salad. I participated in the first MWC Mayors’ Healthy Cook-Off in Parsippany in the spring of 2007 and my “Mango-licious Tilapia” was recognized as the “best tasting” entrée.

Our MWC programs also include community hikes, educational workshops and other activities.

The support Bridgewater has received from our local businesses for the Mayors Wellness Campaign has been impressive. Our sponsors include Ethicon, King Pharmaceuticals, Sanofi-Aventis, Norris, McLaughlin and Marcus, Hamamatsu Corporation, Somerset Orthopedics Associates, MarketRX, SJP Properties, Wegman’s, Power House Gym, Curves, Exer-wise Woman, Elliot Beverages, Squires Corner Liquors, Greymark Building, Fisher Scientific, JAT Computer Consulting and Houlihan’s Restaurant.

History The Mayors Wellness Campaign, which supports mayors as champions of community health, was launched in the spring of 2006 following the Institute of Medicine’s 2004 report on “Preventing Childhood Obesity—Health in the Balance” that recommended strong community leadership to solve this national crisis. Through public-private partnerships of civic, academic and health policy advocates, the MWC seeks to foster active living and healthy lifestyles with a long term goal of reducing health care and other costs secondary to inactivity by providing communities the structure and resources to implement healthy community initiatives.

bowls of fresh, healthy food
Bridgewater's home page features healthy recipes.

The MWC focuses on four strategic areas—youth, community, employers and seniors. Currently more than half of New Jersey’s 566 municipalities are participating in the campaign. These municipalities are working aggressively to decrease obesity rates and increase the overall health of their communities.

The MWC goal is to work to implement a comprehensive program of outreach, education and technical assistance activities to combat obesity and inactivity issues for all state residents. Several stakeholder groups came together to collect best practice strategies to decrease obesity and increase activity.

Are we making a difference?  The New Jersey Mayors Wellness Campaign is making a real difference in the everyday lives of participating communities. There is a greater recognition by the public generally that we need to do more to keep ourselves and our friends and families active and leading healthier lifestyles. Has the MWC caught on? Take this simple test: “Google” the words “mayors wellness campaign.” You will be amazed at what follows: 52 pages of unique hits involving our very own Mayors Wellness Campaign, including idea after idea of how New Jersey mayors have taken the lead by implementing unique and effective programs.

Answers to “What do they all have in common” Quiz Season Four winner of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” program, Bill Germanakos, was featured at the League Conference in November as part of the MWC panel discussion courtesy of Quest Diagnostics.

Dr. Mehmet Oz serves as one of three statewide “spokespersons” for the MWC, joining former Governor James Florio and former First Lady Lucinda Florio in that role.

And the cities of Athens and Englewood in Tennessee announced last November that they have launched Mayors Wellness Campaigns in their towns after their mayors learned of the New Jersey program through their health plan.

 

 

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