A Lighter, Healthier New Haven

New Haven’s diet has begun.

A partnership of local residents, health professionals, Yale researchers and New Haven city officials gathered Friday (Jan. 11) to kick start The Get Healthy CT Weight Loss Challenge to improve local health by collectively making New Haven residents 375,000 pounds lighter.

Mayor Toni Harp said that people could shed pounds and take greater control of their personal health through diet and by engaging in activities as simple as walking. And New Haven, she noted, is a city full of scenic walking areas—the Green, East Rock, West Rock or along the Sound among them.

“If we all work together, if we support one another, we can reduce the cost of health care, reduce the prevalence of diseases related to excess weight,” Harp told the gathering at The Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center at 400 Columbus Ave.

And, she added to laughter from the crowd, “We’ll all look good.”

The mayor pledged that she would join the weight-loss challenge.

The 375,000-pound target coincides with New Haven’s recent 375th anniversary. A weight-loss calculator on the Get Healthy CT website will track weight-loss progress. The website is also designed to provide better access to the numerous health services and programs across New Haven, as well as offering tips, exercise programs and events to support the citywide effort.

Being overweight is a major risk factor for diabetes and other chronic diseases that are much too common in New Haven, said Paul Cleary, dean of the Yale School of Public Health. Such diseases cost individuals, employers, medical providers, and insurers, including the city of New Haven, enormous resources that are desperately needed in other areas. 

“This challenge is wonderful because it addresses a critical public health challenge and has been developed in a way that brings together the resources and efforts of the city of New Haven, Yale-New Haven Hospital, Get Healthy Connecticut, the Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center, and the Community Alliance for Research and Engagement (CARE) at the Yale School of Public Health. With this type of wonderful collaboration of ideas and effort we should be able to make a huge impact on this major issue,” he said. 

Mark Russi, professor of medicine at Yale and director of Occupational Health Services at Yale-New Haven Hospital, noted that obesity is currently the greatest health threat in America.

CARE is working is some of the city’s most disadvantaged areas to address health inequalities. It has conducted door-to-door surveys to assess the health status and habits of New Haven residents and, in response, has organized a variety of programs to encourage exercise and healthier eating habits within the city’s schools and its neighborhoods.

Michael Taylor, CEO of Hill Health, said that improving New Haven’s health is what his organization is all about.

“We are thrilled to be part of this [weight-loss] initiative to make New Haven a little lighter, a little more agile and improve people’s health and wellness,” he said. 

This article was submitted by Denise L Meyer on January 13, 2014.

Yale School of Public Health Dean Paul Cleary (left) and Mark Russi of Yale-New Haven Hospital discuss the Get Healthy CT Weight Loss Challenge with New Haven Mayor Toni Harp.