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After realizing that patients were not participating in regular physical activity, clinicians at the Community Health and Social Services (CHASS) Center in the Mexicantown neighborhood of Detroit decided to try something different to get residents from this largely Latino community moving. Physicians like Maricela Castillo and Richard Bryce teamed up with local organizations to host the neighborhood’s first-ever 5K race. Because the 5K entry was made affordable, many of the 200 participants were CHASS patients. The clinic plans to make the 5K an annual event as a means to promote its other nutrition and fitness programs for patients.
Awareness/Learn: The Community Health and Social Services Center (CHASS) is a nonprofit clinic that provides affordable health care and support services to primarily Latinos and African Americans in Detroit. They particularly serve a mostly Latino neighborhood called Mexicantown (or Southwest Detroit).
Dr. Maricela Castillo and other clinic officials saw many patients struggle with obesity.
“At least 60% of the patients we see are Latinos and many of them are overweight or obese,” Castillo said. “We try to see the whole family and now what we are seeing is a lot of overweight kids.”
When Castillo asked patients if they exercised, most of the time the answer was, “No.”
“They don’t have the culture of exercising at home,” she said.
Additionally, neighborhood safety concerns kept many of them inside and the city’s harsh winter weather only added to the problem of physical inactivity. This was especially true for male immigrant patients who ordinarily worked outdoors in construction or landscaping jobs, but remained sedentary during the winter months, Castillo said.
Clinic patients would say that, when they visit Mexico, they walk everywhere, but sometimes they didn’t feel safe in their own Detroit neighborhood.
Dr. Richard Bryce, another physician working with the CHASS clinic, saw the same problems.
“They come here [from Mexico] and they’re not walking around as much,” Dr. Bryce said. “To get to the closest grocery store they’re driving, so they kind of lose that aspect of being physically active.”
Frame Issue: Bryce, who was born and raised in Michigan but speaks fluent Spanish, wanted to do something to encourage the Latino community to become more active.
His friend had just organized a 5K, so he thought, “Why not speak with him and learn how it’s done?”
Being a physically active person himself, Bryce thought a 5K would be a great way to introduce his patients to the concept of getting regular exercise.
“It’s kind of a popular way of getting exercise throughout the country,” Bryce said.
He also wanted to show the community that exercise was something they could do together as a family, and wanted to motivate patients to participate in some of the free programming like Zumba, Yoga, and Step classes, offered at the CHASS clinic. The CHASS Center, a staple of the Mexicantown neighborhood for 40 years, was renovated into a new state of-the-art facility in 2012, where patients could access bilingual health care services and participate in culturally relevant fitness and nutrition classes.
The new building even has an indoor track and a cooking demonstration kitchen.
Castillo said a 5K event could have multiple benefits for the clinic and its patients, too.
“We wanted to create more awareness in the community about the importance of physical activity and change the whole idea of what a 5K is all about,” Castillo said. “We also wanted to raise funds to keep nutrition and fitness programs offered at the clinic alive.”
So Bryce contacted his 5K-experienced friend.
“Speaking with him kind of gave me the blueprint of what we needed to do,” Bryce said. “The first time it’s kind of hard to figure out where you need to go.”
After talking to his friend, Bryce said his plan would require approval from city officials for an event permit, fundraising to physically host the event, as well as other logistics.
Education: Bryce spoke with colleagues, including Castillo, to inform about his idea and plans.
He shared his idea among colleagues for several months and eventually brought it to the clinic’s medical director, Dr. Felix Valbuena.
Valbuena thought the idea was a good one. But he was concerned that it might be difficult to get support for the event, given the city’s economic struggles.
Bryce explained that he would seek the city and other support and enroll as many clinic patients as he could for the 5K—reiterating that the event could double as a way to promote and raise funds for wellness programs offered at the CHASS center.
Mobilization: Bryce and Castillo then spoke with the organization’s CEO, Ricardo Guzman, who gave them the OK to move forward with their plans.
They secured some funding from their partners at the Henry Ford Health System (HFHS).
Word about the 5K idea had already gotten around when they approached Denise Pike, the clinic’s development director.
Pike shared some ideas for making the race successful. For instance, she suggested that the 5K race also feature a health fair, which would require volunteers.
The group also wanted to get kids involved.
“We wanted families to come out with their kids, so we thought of incorporating some kid friendly activities,” Castillo said.
They knew that they would need to get permission from the city to shut down the road and host the 5K, so Dr. Bryce contacted the city clerk, who directed him to the Detroit Police Department. While waiting on city approval for a permit, the team at CHASS started looking for race sponsors.
Debate: After realizing that it may take longer than anticipated to get a race permit, things were put on hold with seeking sponsorship until a date for the event could be secured. Initially the group had hoped to host the event in July 2013. However, the police department discovered that a conflicting event was scheduled for the very same day, which made it impossible to shut down certain roads for the race.
Because of this conflict, the group had to decide on different date to host the race.
Bryce sent a request to the city clerk to change the date of the race to Sept. 7, 2013.
Activation: After a few months, the clinic secured a permit from the city to host a 5K in Mexicantown.
Now they could get back to finding sponsors for the race.
“We got all the sponsors about a month before the race took place,” Castillo said. “It was challenging because some places wanted at least 3, 6, or 12 months in advance notice, but at the time we still didn’t have a permit.”
Still the group was able to get support from Quicken Loans, Wayne State University’s Medical & Nursing schools, and from individual donors.
“Although we were facing hard times in Detroit, we were promoting the 5K in the streets and through contacts,” Castillo said.
Castillo made it a point to speak with patients and local business owners about the event and distribute flyers. Announcements about the 5K were posted on the CHASS Center’s Facebook page and race websites like Active.com. The A2 Race Management (A2RM) Company was contracted to time the race, provide race bibs, and to set up the event’s start and finish line.
Bryce made an announcement at one of the group’s monthly staff meetings to recruit volunteers. Physicians, nurses, medical assistants and administration from CHASS all offered to lend a hand. Students from Michigan State University, the University of Michigan, and Wayne State University were also invited to volunteer.
“The reason this was a success was mostly because of our volunteers,” Bryce said.
To prepare (or train) clinic patients for the 5K, Bryce and Valbuena formed a neighborhood walking group. Six weeks before the race, a group of about 10 patients started meeting on Tuesday nights to walk.
Frame Policy: As the day of the race drew closer, the team made final preparations and final decisions on what the event should offer to the community.
The race would start from the CHASS Center, turn onto Junction Street, and continue onto Vernon Highway. By taking this route, runners would get to pass by Mexicantown’s Clark Park—a park that had once been shut down in the 1990s, but has since been reopened to offer recreation and programming year-round.
The younger children would be invited to do a 400-meter race, rather than the full 5K.
Those who were patients at the CHASS clinic would only have to fill out a registration form and pay $5 to participate. The cost would be $25 for non-patients and $5 for children.
“Our main goals were basically for the patients to see how to incorporate physical activity into their daily life and to include the whole family and not just the patients,” Castillo said. “If the parents don’t do any physical activity, our kids won’t do anything either.”
Change: The CHASS Center’s first annual 5K race was held at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.
More than 200 individuals participated in the race, including 30 kids, and 80 CHASS patients.
Implementation:Overall, the community responded positively to the 5K race, which exposed more local residents to the need for regular physical activity.
“I had one patient who finished the race and said, ‘Wow, I feel like I can do anything now!’” Castillo said.
Many of the clinic’s medical assistants volunteered on race day and helped with face-painting for kids, healthy cooking demos, and handing out balloons to children. A volunteer from the community lead a stretching session before the race started, while another handed out recipe cards of food prepared during a cooking demonstration.
The clinic also raised enough funds to keep the clinic’s physical activity and nutrition programs running, and even got more individuals to sign-up for the free classes offered to the community.
The initial success spurred the CHASS Center to host a yearly 5K in efforts to support the health of the community and to promote awareness of free programming offered at CHASS.
“The 5K gave a lot of exposure to other things offered at the clinic. Since the 5K, our Zumba classes have been packed,” Bryce said. “We’ll get 30-40 people in a small room…Now we’re looking at moving to a bigger room.”
Equity/Sustainability: Because prevention is vital to better health outcomes, the CHASS Center will continue promoting physical activity and healthier food options among its patients and across Mexicantown. The walking group created to help patients train for the 5K continues to meet weekly at the Center’s indoor track.
In addition, the CHASS Center officials are still looking for avenues to keep the community active, especially during the winter.
They have discussed doing a special Zumba event, and asked patients who sign up for Zumba classes to bring a friend.
The CHASS center has also worked to make fresh fruits and vegetables accessible to families through its CHASS Mercado. The CHASS Mercado is available to the community on a weekly basis between the months of June and October.
CHASS Center Homepage
CHASS Center Facebook
This success story was produced by Salud America! with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The stories are intended for educational and informative purposes. References to specific policymakers, individuals, schools, policies, or companies have been included solely to advance these purposes and do not constitute an endorsement, sponsorship, or recommendation. Stories are based on and told by real community members and are the opinions and views of the individuals whose stories are told. Organization and activities described were not supported by Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and do not necessarily represent the views of Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Explore More:Green & Active Spaces, Healthy Neighborhoods & Communities
By The Numbers
of Latinos live within walking distance (<1 mile) of a park
This success story was produced by Salud America! with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The stories are intended for educational and informative purposes. References to specific policymakers, individuals, schools, policies, or companies have been included solely to advance these purposes and do not constitute an endorsement, sponsorship, or recommendation. Stories are based on and told by real community members and are the opinions and views of the individuals whose stories are told. Organization and activities described were not supported by Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and do not necessarily represent the views of Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.