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January 06. 2013 10:40PM

Keene Vision 2020 project aims to make community healthier

KEENE - With seven years to its target date, Keene's Vision 2020 project is up to 60 groups signing on as Vision 2020 Organizational Champions as the city works toward becoming the healthiest community in the nation.

All of the businesses or organizations that have joined all have one thing in common, said Healthiest Community Director Linda Rubin: they all had members, employees or owners who were already individual Community Champions of Vision 2020.

How the groups meet their obligations as Organizational Champion depends, Rubin said.

"It's really about meeting people where they are at," she said, and starts with an evaluation about the health and wellness of its campus, office or meeting place for members or employees.

First, Vision 2020 staffers assist the newly joined organization with the Center for Disease Control's worksite wellness tool to help give them direction on how to improve the health of their organization, Rubin said. Then the organization works to make improvements through new policies or merely connecting employees or members with information to help them be healthier. That could mean instituting a tobacco-free campus policy or identifying walking trails accessible to employees on their lunch breaks.

It could also mean encouraging and supporting others in healthy lifestyle behaviors such as eating five or more fruits and vegetables a day and being physically active for at least 30 minutes a day.

Community Champions include individuals and schools in Cheshire County, but it wasn't until last spring that organizations, businesses and clubs were asked to become part of Vision 2020 as Organizational Champions, Rubin said.

Cheshire Medical Center started Vision 2020 in 2006 to actively engage the community in a proactive approach to health and wellness, she said.

"As a health organization, we always have to look at providing the right care at the right time, but we also felt a greater responsibility to help the community be healthier overall," Rubin said. "The organization just really felt it was the right thing to do to not only take care of people when they are sick, but it's the right thing to do to prevent people from needing the hospital in the first place."

Though the project started in 2006, it wasn't until 2010 that Vision 2020 set goals to strive towards in becoming the healthiest community in the country by the year 2020. That's when "healthy eating and active living" became the focus of the project, Rubin said.

"Our goal is to improve the health of all 77,000 people in Cheshire County," Rubin said.

When Vision 2020 started, 33 percent of all adults in Cheshire County were at a healthy weight. Vision 2020 has set a goal of increasing that percentage to 60 by the year 2020, and is a measure that can be compared to other dates from other counties, the state and the country, she said.

At last look, the percentage of adults at a healthy weight in Cheshire County had gone up to close to 40 percent, Rubin said.

mpierce@newstote.com

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