Diet and exercise are critical to reducing chronic illness. Any program that incorporates these elements demands discipline. During challenging economic times establishing good health habits becomes more difficult since there are increased demands on time. Another unanticipated obstacle is that affordable, easily accessed opportunities for fitness are more difficult to find.
Many small cities and towns have been able to offer community facilities where people can participate in activities such as swimming, team sports and athletic classes at minimal cost. These facilities typically rely on a precarious combination of public funding, donations and membership fees to meet their obligations. In the past year many have experienced a decline in all three revenue sources while being faced with increasing expenses. These facilities are now closing their doors -- leaving many without access to a variety of activities.
In Norwich, it has been the YMCA that has provided an indoor pool where infants and toddlers learn to swim. The elderly participate in aquatic exercise programs to ease the excess strain on arthritic joints. A licensed daycare facility helps relieve some of the pressure on working families while providing a sports diversion to many young people. Unfortunately, the Norwich YMCA will be closing this week.
“No program at the YMCA is designed to make money,” said Attorney Michael Lahan, who serves as chairman of the volunteer board responsible for managing the Norwich branch of the YMCA. “All membership fees go directly to supporting programs that help others. The physical plant at the downtown location is an integral part of the city and the only way to survive will be through a coalition of organizations.”
It is no secret that health costs are rising rapidly in the United States. Much of those dollars go to treating chronic problems like obesity, hypertension and diabetes. It’s time we begin to invest these resources for prevention rather than treatment.