Start where you are! That bit of advice and encouragement is at the heart of a community-wide health initiative coordinated through Munson Healthcare that is aimed at helping people live more active and healthy lives in Northern Michigan. The initiative, called Shape Up North, was formed in response to a community health needs assessment survey that revealed Northern Michigan has one of the highest diabetes rates in the nation and has high rates of obesity and overweightness.

To propel the effort forward, this November, Shape Up North is going public with a website——that helps people find the resources and ideas they need to lead healthier, more active lives Up North, explains Alyson Kass, coordinator for Shape Up North.

Looking for a source for healthy local foods? Follow the link to a farm directory. Looking for a place to kayak? Check the activity finder. Nutrition classes? Shape Up North has a list of those, too. Free apps for your smartphone that help people lose weight? The site has links to those as well. Events that celebrate a healthy lifestyle? Lots of those, from races to classes to casual community bike rides. “It all gets back to the ‘start where you are’ idea,”Kass says. “If you are super athletic and looking for something intense, you can find it. If you are just looking for ways to start a new healthier life, that is there too.”

The Shape Up North initiative is part of a broad national trend in which health professionals are trying to shift healthcare’s focus away from fixing people when they get sick to preventing sickness in the first place, Kass says.

One of Kass’s priorities is visiting community health leaders in the five-county area (Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Leelanau) that Shape Up North covers to identify successful community health ideas and then sharing those ideas with other Northern Michigan communities.

In addition to healthy resources and advice for the everyday person, the Shape Up North website also has resources for companies wanting to start workplace health programs, schools wanting to improve the health of students and physicians looking for ideas to share with their patients.

Healthy Ideas From Shape Up North