Health & Wellness Initiative Creates Positive Lifestyle Changes (KY UCEDD)

April 15, 2016

This December marks the one year anniversary of Kentucky state-wide scale up efforts with HealthMatters. To date, 14 organizations from all corners of the state have reported serving 467 clients who have completed HealthMatters programming. This only includes those individuals who completed the full programming and doesn't even count those who saw the fun and benefits of physical activity and joined in. The results have been very encouraging. Participants have reported feeling healthier, feeling better about themselves, and have started incorporating what they've learned from the health promotion programming into their daily lives. One participating organization held a "biggest loser" contest, the staff and client winners both lost 50 pounds and received a gift card. Several agencies have started their own vegetable gardens or collaborations with local farmers' markets to learn about healthy produce and making healthier meal options for themselves.

The next step in this chapter is the Health Partners program. Health Partners utilizes the Healthy Lifestyles curriculum adapted for use with a dyadic partnered approach using universal design for learning (UDL) principles. Participants will learn about physical, social, emotional, and environmental through meaningful activities and then create achievable goals that is of most interest to them and work toward positive changes in those specific areas. This unique program was built upon a framework of inclusion while improving and optimizing teaching and learning that works for all people, including those with disabilities. For the dyad approach, the person with a developmental disability will choose a health partner with whom he or she will participate in self-directed holistic health promotion activities. The updates to the curriculum were built off of the advice and input of both a panel of experts as well as self-advocates, which include individuals with IDD who completed a certification training for Healthy Lifestyles in order to become co-facilitators for the program.

One participant was able to lose over 50 pounds in just a few short months of partnering with the health and wellness initiative. He wrote a poem exemplifying what making healthy lifestyle choices was able to do for his life:

The Way I Used To Be
By: Stephen Love
I used to be as big as a tree
Just like my whole family.
They would fill themselves with cakes and pies
And never want to exercise.
When I wanted to lose weight,
They called me names and filled me with hate.
You're not going to lose weight you idiot
You're going to be fat like us you twit
But that drove me to work hard
I pushed myself from the start
I worked hard, fast, and quick
I was losing weight by the look of it
Now they look at me with pain
At the falsehood of what they say
You can do what you envision
You just need will and good motivation

Healthy choices are beneficial to everyone, not just physically, but also through teaching people that they have the power to change their bodies and how they interact with the world. The health and wellness initiative aims to serve Kentuckians in creating a future which gives them the tools needed to learn about and advocate for their own health, and achieve a more active, more empowered future. To learn more, or if you or someone you know would benefit from participation, please visit