By Leslie Alford
At 53 years old, Jenine Worton, a Kansas City, Mo., resident, says she struggles with several health issues. “I have high blood pressure, back pain, I am pre-diabetic, [with] high cholesterol and thyroid issues,” she says. Her doctors wanted her to get healthy, but until LifeX, it was a challenge. “LifeX has motivated me to come here and tell others to come join me,” she says. “I don’t like to work out alone.”
Worton is one of 200 residents participating in LifeX, a partnership among Kansas City Parks and Recreation, Kansas City Health Department, and the Healthcare Foundation. The program is the city’s place-based approach to mobilizing residents living in six ZIP codes, where 94 percent of residents live below the federal poverty level and life-expectancy rates are on average 14.9 years less than other areas of the city. Participants receive a free annual community-center membership, access to healthy lifestyle and fitness classes, and leadership training in an exclusive program.
For 67-year-old retiree Lloyd Jones, the initiative has really helped him lose weight. “I am on a fixed income, and it’s a great thing for me to come up here,” he says. He tries to visit Southeast Community Center four times a week to work out.
Even 25-year-old Joshua Sanders signed up. “This program has really helped me stay on-track with going to the gym and being consistent with my lifting,” he explains. “I am an aspiring athlete and it’s hard to go to try-outs when you are not prepared.”
LifeX aligns with the parks and recreation’s mission, “to improve the quality of life, health, and wellness of our community by providing socially equitable, community-driven programing, and environmentally sound resource management.” Those who participate in the program are expected to exercise on a regular basis and attend the engagement programs. Each time a participant comes to the center, the visit is tracked to ensure the membership is being used. Those who sign up and do not take advantage of the program are contacted and told their membership will be given away to someone else if they don’t use it.
For Worton, LifeX has really had an impact. Besides losing weight, she is becoming empowered to help others. “I am motivating others to come in and work out with me,” she says. “I am passing out the information because I am so glad the city is helping me with my goals.”
Leslie Alford is the Communications and Development Manager for the Parks and Recreation Department for the city of Kansas City, Mo. Reach her at Leslie.Alford@kcmo.org.