Local physician’s HealthyTown idea grows to help people in Flint.
Family physician Paul R. Ehrmann, D.O., is on a mission to improve the health of residents in communities across the state through an initiative he developed a few years ago and continues to spread across Southeast Michigan.
“The three cornerstones of good health start with improved nutrition, exercise and lifestyle behavior,” says Ehrmann of West Bloomfield, a doctor for nearly 40 years and a member of Congregation B’nai Moshe.
“Nutrition is a great place to start. If we can teach people how to eat right that really puts them in a very good position to stay healthy and encourages them to move on to other healthy activities and behavior.”
Ehrmann’s program, HealthyTown Everywhere, is a community-based health and wellness initiative founded in 2014 that focuses on optimizing health by working toward achieving healthy weight by improving nutrition, exercise and lifestyle behavior education in individuals, families and communities.
The program was initially piloted in Royal Oak with success and has recently expanded its outreach efforts to Genesee County in Flint with an event during August with volunteer students, physicians and registered dieticians from Ascension/Genesys, Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Central Michigan University, Oakland University/William Beaumont Hospital School of Medicine and Wayne State University.
Nicole LeClair, a third-year MSU medical student and Flint native, sees events like HealthyTown Everywhere as a way to give back to her community.
“I was born and raised in Flint. There are not enough doctors here. I decided to stay to help the people in my community,” LeClair says.
The HealthyTown Everywhere event included a fun walk with the help of walkwithadoc.org, grocery tours run by registered and student dieticians, and a health fair offering screenings for blood sugar, blood pressure and Body Mass Index (BMI). A mini medical school program was offered through a partnership with the nonprofit Michigan Health Council that engages children in interactive health activities, encourages healthy lifestyle habits and promotes careers in health care.
Hamady Brothers partnered with the event, which coincided with the grand opening of the first Hamady Complete Food Store in 25 years. Ehrmann says the store is a significant step in improving access and availability of fresh fruit, vegetables and other whole foods in the northwest Flint community. There, limited access to nutritious and affordable food has contributed to high rates of obesity, often leading to an increased incidence of chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Ehrmann says the mission of HealthyTown Everywhere is to have physicians in training and in practice partner with allied health professionals to replicate, execute and sustain a healthy living program in their own practice community that promotes a culture of wellness where they live, work and play.
He hopes the Flint event leads to continued efforts in the region. “In each community where we have introduced HealthyTown Everywhere, I like to think of our effort as a catalyst to getting residents to think about eating right, moving more and living well.
“We recognize we need to sustain the message to have improved outcomes,” he says. “Our efforts serve as a start toward that effort, building strong inter-professional cooperative health teams on the way, delivering the best value to the people we serve.”
Plans for HealthyTown Everywhere include expanding the initiative throughout the state by identifying “champions” to lead the program within their own practice community. That includes working with local stakeholders to build models and tailoring the program to suit the needs of their respective communities.
“We want to expand our collective group effort, offering our services to jump-start the health of the communities we serve,” Ehrmann says.
To learn more, visit healthytowneverywhere.org.