FRANKLIN, NJ – The Sussex County YMCA launched a partnership program with Walmart in Franklin to take steps to help customers and employees improve their health.  The simple concept is to encourage walking by posting signs in the parking lot telling people how many steps from their car to the store.

To kick off the new initiative, Sussex Y Executive Director Jennifer Gardner, Associate Executive Director Corey Brown and Wellness Director Alma Dhuyvetter were at the Wal Mart discussing the benefits of walking, giving away water, healthy snacks and 100 pedometers. 

They were joined by Walmart’s Community Coordinator Marie Pallotta, Pharmacy Manager Arpan Patel, Market Health and Wellness Director Bill Riccardi to greet customers, explain the program and provide information about the health initiatives offered in the store. 

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“We are hoping to make people more aware of adding physical activity into their daily lives,” Dhuyvetter said.

“Marie has been really helpful in building the community partnership,” Gardener said.  “This brings a program of workplace wellness.  We have been working together as a team to develop a program that encourages people to support each other to incorporate habits for a healthy lifestyle.  People are more successful if they work together.”

Funding for the project came from a Healthy Communities grant.  This is the first step of a two-year plan.  Other components of the plan are being developed, according to Brown but anticipated to include walking paths at the Walmart, to encourage the employees to take steps to get and remain healthy. 

New Jersey Healthy Communities Network is a funding collaborative of which Atlantic Health is a part.  Coordinator of Atlantic Health Center for Population Health Sciences Ashley Anglin PhD was the point person for the grant, working with the Sussex County Y to help fund the walking initiative. 

“By the time grantees are applying for the grants they almost always have a community partner for their program,” Anglin said. 
The collaborative provides funding to community organizations supporting programs that “promote healthy eating and active living,” according to Anglin.  Currently there are 43 initiatives in New Jersey that have received funding from the NJHCN, including 13 grants in Anglin’s “service area.” 

The service area or cohort includes the Borough of Lincoln Park Town Hall, Grow it Green in Morristown, the Gateway YMCA in Elizabeth, the Center for Prevention and Counseling and NORWESCAP and others.

“It is not just about providing funds but also technical assistance and evaluation of the programs,” Anglin said.  The technical support helps the grantees when their projects include changing policy and in negotiating any road blocks they might encounter building the project.  There are one to one phone calls to provide feedback and encouragement with the grantees, “especially if things don’t go as planned.”

There is also a networking component to the NJHCN with regional groups getting together to share resources and ideas Anglin explains.  “Once a year all 43 grantee organizations in the state also meet,” Anglin said.

They hope to encourage “corporations to make healthy choices the easy choice in places where people work and play, so they don’t have to think about it, according to Anglin. 

Recognizing “only 10 percent of healing and health happens within the hospital walls, Atlantic Health is part of this network to encourage healthy living,” Anglin said.

Brown said they are hoping to expand the partnership to include the Newton Walmart in the future.