Steps to Better Health assists African American, US born minority populations, recently diagnosed with obesity, diabetes or other chronic health conditions make important changes to develop healthier lifestyle habits such as better nutrition and increased physical activity while simultaneously improving mental health issues. The 16 week program includes nurse visits to assess biometric improvements and weekly sessions that include education on proper nutrition, the importance of regular exercise, motivation techniques and the effects of a healthier lifestyle on both mental and physical health. A consultation with a Doctor of Pharmacology to review prescription medications is provided for those who have concerns about side effects and/or interactions or need advice on proper medication management.
Typical nutrition topics include eating more fresh produce, increasing fiber intake, understanding simple vs. complex carbohydrates and healthy vs. unhealthy fats, getting enough calcium, nutrition label reading, eating for nutrition, utilizing healthy cooking methods at home, avoiding hidden sugars, and stress management, as well as identifying emotional triggers that lead to insufficient self care.
In order to emphasize the importance of physical exercise, participants are given a pedometer to encourage establishment of a regular walking routine and to help with motivation to obtain a daily steps goal. As they approach completion of the program, participants receive a grocery store gift card and are taken on a tour of the store to learn how to shop for healthier foods.
Our therapists focus on self-care and stress reduction to help improve anxiety and/or depression symptoms that are often experienced as a result of, or in addition to, dealing with severe health problems, as well as adjustment to a new diagnosis and doctor recommendations for significant lifestyle changes. Evidence based interventions are used to treat more severe mental health diagnoses and improve comorbid conditions.
As participants prepare for discharge from the program, the therapist discusses ways to sustain the new lifestyle changes independently after program completion. A follow up visit after 30 and 60 days determines if they are able to apply what they learned and sustain any lifestyle changes made.
A parallel program provides assistance to the area’s newest populations, Limited English Proficient (LEP) immigrants and refugees, utilizing our professional interpreters and multilingual Community Access Workers. This population often feels overwhelmed and confused by the intricate system of US medical care. In addition to the nutrition and exercise education and mental health treatment provided, our LEP participants receive help understanding doctors’ orders, feeling empowered to ask questions, learning how to arrange transportation, schedule appointments and request interpreters, more confidently communicate with medical providers and seek timely treatment for health concerns.
*This program is generously funded by the St. Louis MHB and is available only to City residents who are 45 years of age and older and struggle with both physical and mental challenges to obtaining better health.