Promoting healthy choices
Winnie Brutus, the current AmeriCorps Health Corps Wellness Coordinator for the Arc Jacksonville, has served since September of 2013. Brutus believes everyone should be able to live full and fruitful lives, and she promotes healthy choices daily when working with the 23 participants in her program.
“We cannot function properly if our minds and bodies are not in good health; therefore, I believe that everyone’s health needs should be met regardless of sex, ethnicity, cultural backgrounds, etc,” said Brutus.
Every morning, she takes one to three individuals for small group sessions in the gym, where the participants work out on elliptical machines, stationary bicycles, and do minor weight training. She allows each person to determine what they wish to work on, providing gentle instruction and guidance as they exercise.
After the gym session, Brutus spends an hour discussing healthy living with her class of 10-12 students. Her goal is to encourage thinking about their health in a holistic manner instead of about typical health topics such as exercise or diet. Areas covered include: sleep, stress management, disease prevention, and women’s health issues.
To keep a fun atmosphere, Brutus uses a “wellness rewards system” to give participants an incentive to engage in healthy behaviors, such as coming to her public health class, eating healthy food, or even being kind to another person. These actions earn participants “wellness bucks,” which they can later redeem in prize drawings.
Even though Brutus encourages participants to make healthy living choices and checks their weight on a regular basis, she is challenged by being unable to keep consistent track of the participants’ individual improvements outside the program. Because of this, she concentrates primarily on whether she has affected behavior rather than on weight alone.
“I can’t go home with them and keep track of their eating habits,” she said. “I tend to track what I can see. As long as the participants are exercising, I know I’m doing my job.”
Winnie takes solace knowing that what she does can truly improve the quality of life of those she teaches, “I feel that helping people understand certain health issues and educating them on ways that they can improve their overall health (mind, body, spirit) is a way to help bridge the gap of health disparities.”
By Andrew Sun