Bethesda Inc. grant enables health, fitness project to bring culture shift to Easterseals.

May 18, 2017

By Sheila Vilvens, Cincinnati Enquirer

A typical day for Nikki Vandergriff includes regular workouts, healthy food and plenty of water.

That’s a significant change from her previous sedentary lifestyle that embraced greasy, fast food. The change is the result of a three-year pilot program initiated by Easterseals and funded in part by a $375,000 Bethesda Inc. grant to engage individuals with developmental disabilities to achieve better health outcomes.

Vandergriff is a shining success story from the program, according to Easterseals Director of Quality Improvement Jonathon Sherwood.

Studies show that Ohio adults with disabilities are less than half as likely to receive the health care, prescriptions or dental care they need as adults without disabilities, he said. Many live-in poverty. They also report higher risk behaviors such as smoking and significantly higher obesity rates.

“In order to help people be successful in vocational outcomes, we needed to address health,” Sherwood said. They needed to connect with healthcare providers and adopt healthy lifestyles.

This took shape in form of classes, conversations and coaching, according to Easterseals spokeswoman Kate Elliott.

Participants were mostly recruited from Easterseals facilities such as adult day services, organizational employment services, and the Work and Grow program.

This program is what Vandergriff said helped her achieve success.

Three times a week at lunch Vandergriff and other program participants had blood pressure checked, were weighed, and had their lunch reviewed for healthiness. They also participated in 15 minutes of walking.

“It helped me learn something about my health,” she said. “I know it helped me lose my weight.”

These are not the only benefits experienced by the North Fairmount resident. Through regular doctor visits she was able to address her high blood pressure and, she said, she developed a sense of accomplishment and pride in self.

“Now I realize I need to get back in the gym. I tell myself, ‘Nikki, you can do this.’ And, I did it. I’m doing it on my own and I am proud of myself,” she said.

Bethesda Inc. President Jill Miller said she’s pleased by the outcome of the Easterseals program which made it possible to engage one of the region’s largest under served populations and provide them with the tools they needed to better manage and improve their own health and wellness. In turn, they could experience a better quality of life and costs of care could be lower, she said.

Continue reading this article at the Cincinnati Enquirer.