OLEAN, NY – Did you know that a 20-ounce bottle of soda adds up to 240 calories and requires a 55-minute walk to burn off the calories? Or that 15 potato chips equal 12 minutes of jumping rope?

Those were two of the many facts discussed by YMCA staffers who held up pictures of junk food during the “Is It Worth It?” activity conducted during the recent Healthy Livable Communities Consortium sponsored by the Cattaraugus County Health Department.

The consortium was the first of four the health department will conduct this calendar year, according to Debra Nichols, public health educator for the Cattaraugus County Health Department. The health department has offered the consortia four times yearly since 2011 for the purpose of engaging and empowering persons of all ages to live healthier lifestyles.

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Attendees and presenters filled close to a dozen tables. After settling down with refreshments of fruits, vegetables, pizza, coffee and water, persons in the room stood one by one and introduced themselves.

Ashley Hawley, operations manager for the Gowanda-based Healthy Community Alliance, started the day by discussing planning grant of the Community Based Organization (or CBO) that covers services and resources based on five key areas of the social determination of health: economic stability, education, social and community context, health, and the neighborhood and environment.  

Josè Soto, a community health education specialist for Ardent Solutions, talked about the Walk with Ease Program, which he coordinates for Allegany County. Program participants are encouraged to take walks at least three times a week and learn proper stretching and strengthening exercises, motivational strategies, health education and stamina building. The program was initially designed for adults.

“It also open to anyone over the age of 18 who is looking to become more active or is already active and looking to add on more,” Soto said. “You also must be able to stand for at least 10 minutes without increased pain.”

“Is It Worth It?” was the first activity break, followed by “Simon Says With a Twist.” Y staffers started the Simon Says activity, then left it up to each table to choose a leader.

“Simon says pick up your right leg,” a woman told her group. The others at her table followed her in lifting their right legs.

“Raise your right hand,” she instructed. Because she did not preface her command with “Simon says,” the group followed the directions given by Y staffers and clapped five times. Still, they kept moving.

After the activity break, Kate Ebersole, the owner of KEE Concepts and Three Dimensional Dynamics, shared updates on the SCALE/Action Lab concerning transportation for people with disabilities and behavioral challenges.

“Transportation, including rural transportation, was identified as the No. 1 barrier we had for people with disabilities, followed by behavioral health challenges,” said Ebersole. “We do not always think of mental and behavioral health challenges as a barrier, yet it was amazing to me how many people said that things such as being depressed and not being able to get out of the door or not being able to feel comfortable talking to people was a barrier to employment, to getting even to the doctor’s office.”

According to Ebersole, low incomes and limited employment opportunities are also barriers for people with disabilities.

“We’re going to continue this work,” she said. “We wanted to start out with a survey, we wanted to start by talking about barriers and see how does that drive some sort of an action like we did last fall. We have not designed it yet.”

Ebersole said she was confident that her team would be able to come up with solutions.

 “We have a great team, it is well populated with lots of different people, including people with live experience in government agencies and local agencies,” Ebersole said.

Toward the end of the consortium, presenters mentioned two upcoming free clinics.

Barbara Breckenridge, the executive director of the Kidney Foundation of Western New York, told the group about a kidney screening April 12 at the Healthy Community Alliance, Suite 100, 1 School St., Gowanda. The screenings will consist of blood pressure readings and glucose and urine testing.

“The purpose is to try to identify people in the early stages of kidney disease to hopefully to avoid having to do dialysis or a kidney transplant,” Breckenridge said.

Nichols informed the group about the Remote Area Medical (RAM) Clinic scheduled for June 10 and 11 on the campus of St. Bonaventure University

“People will be able to get free dental exams, medical exams and all kinds of wonderful opportunities for our community. We hope to gain the entire region,” Nichols said.