The Community's Personal Cheerleader

“Diseases are disabling, but treatable! I can’t only want results for you, you have to want them too! Come on everyone, let’s pick up the pace!” This is what I chant at my clients while they’re sweating and exerting their fatigued bodies during the workout portion of my “8 Weeks to Healthy Living” program. According to Jacksonville’s previous Community Health Needs Assessments, the region has a high percentage of residents with preventive lifestyle diseases, such as Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes. One of the strategies that I use at my host site, Baptist Health’s Office of Social Responsibility, is the wellness program, “8 Weeks To Healthy Living.” This nutrition and physical activity-based series is facilitated by our Registered Dietitians and Certified Fitness Instructors, once a week for two hours. I bring their materials and they bring their expertise.

From the start of my service term with the NHC Florida AmeriCorps Program, I focused on retention by emphasizing the value of individual health and by encouraging participants to be intrinsically motivated. With my population being majority faith-based, middle aged individuals, I needed to motivate them in the most engaging and respectful way. Many of our faith-based partners come to us with chronic diseases. Most live a sedentary lifestyle and are in the contemplation or preparation stages of behavior change. Contemplating is when participants are considering changing their lifestyle, meaning, for example, they are only attending the program to please someone else, such as a spouse or their physician. Preparing is when participants are taking the necessary steps to make health-related change. When trying to change human health and behavior, you must have patience and have an appealing approach. All participants know a lifestyle change is overdue and they know that at Baptist, we get the job done. I knew, during the program, naturally attendance would start to fluctuate and individual participation would start to decrease, so I spiced things up!

I met with my Director of Community Engagement, Lynn Sherman, and Community Partnership Coordinator, Paul Cook, to inform them that I had plans to adapt the curriculum to include more interactive discussions and activities during the nutrition session in order to cater to each organization’s interest while still corresponding with the overall purpose of “8 Weeks To Healthy Living.” I did this by visiting their establishments, sharing healthy recipes, inviting them to community outreach events, evaluating their experiences, and working out with them during their fitness sessions. Participation shot back up!

I am the cheerleader for the underserved, underrepresented, uninformed, and uninsured. I am here to provide resources, build rapport, and educate individuals  on the reality of why it’s important to be more mindful when it comes to their health so that they can live a happier lifestyle. As the “8 Weeks To Healthy Living” Program Coordinator, it is my duty to keep to strong ties with our partners who commit to the 8 Weeks program. With the proper senior level support and clients’ total engagement at each session, the goal of “8 Weeks To Healthy Living” will continue to thrive and the community will continue to progress in its health journeys.





This blog post was written by NHC FL AmeriCorps member, Shakeira Herring.

Shakeira serves at Baptist Health as a Health Educator.