New health campaign brings people to their feet

Oct. 14, 2013 @ 05:33 PM

Most people don’t break into dance after a press conference, but more than 50 did Monday.

They were practicing what they preached: Exercise is good.

It was the kickoff to a city-county initiative that aims to help Durham residents lose tons of fat and gain a quality life.

The hope is to get 28,000 Durham residents to complete 420,000 hours of activity and lose 280,000 pounds.

As participants shed weight, they’ll record their progress on a website that provides free health journaling tools and access to health-education resources. They can monitor their weight loss and see how Durham as a whole is progressing.

“This initiative targets reducing and preventing obesity, an epidemic that undergirds the leading causes of death,” said Gayle Harris, director the Durham County Department of Public Health, at the kickoff held in the courtyard of the Durham County Human Services Building on East Main Street.

“We know that for the very first time, children will not live as long as their parents if we don’t get a handle on obesity rates,” she said. “We want to move the needle on obesity reduction and prevention so that we, too, can be a community of health.”

If there was any doubt that lifestyle changes can improve health, one only needed to hear Durham City Councilman Don Moffitt’s story.

Moffitt said that when he went to his doctor three years ago, he learned he was overweight and had high cholesterol.

“My doctor told me it was time to go on statins to control my cholesterol,” Moffitt said. “It was too hard, she said, to do it by changing my eating habits.”

Moffitt didn’t accept that.

“I saw a lifetime of dependency on drugs, with their side effects and co-pays and insurance costs,” he said. “I thought about my then-7-year-old daughter and the grandchildren I hope to hold one day, and I hit the books.”

Moffitt read up on cholesterol and diet and started making changes.

“Instead of choosing between french fries and a salad, a chose between my family and french fries,” he said. “My family won.”

Moffitt started walking 2½ miles five times a week, dropping his cholesterol from 244 to 156 within two years and losing 30 pounds in nine months.

“The only bad news is that I had a considerable clothing expense,” Moffitt said.

Durham County Manager Mike Ruffin, who has battled obesity in the past but now sports a far slimmer profile, said the campaign can mean a healthier Durham.

“I’ve had my own personal health challenges in the past,” Ruffin said. “We all have to take that personal step to be healthy.”

The challenge also includes Duke University, and Dr. William J. Fulkerson Jr., executive vice president of Duke University Health System, said the campaign is timely “as we enter a new era for health-care delivery in the United States – managing and encouraging health and wellness.”

“That’s going to be the primary goal of all health-care providers – a real sea change,” Fulkerson said. “I’m certainly going to encourage our 15,000-plus employees to take advantage of this program.”

“A Healthier Durham” is part of the larger campaign led by NC SPIN and supported by the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians, North Carolina Medical Society, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Rural Health and Community Care, the AARP Decide.Create.Share campaign and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

Tom Campbell, who produces NC SPIN, a public policy TV show that air across the state and which founded “A Healthier NC,” said Durham is leading the way as the first government entity in North Carolina to join the campaign.

“Durham has always been known as first in medicine,” Campbell said. “I think that with this campaign, we’ll also be putting citizens first in their health care.”

To sign up for “A Healthier Durham” and for information, visit