Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Walk with a Doc

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Walk with a Doc

Article excerpt

Parks help connect doctors and patients through walking programs

Gathering at Highbanks Metro Park in Columbus, Ohio, on an early Saturday morning, dozens of people of all ages prepare to take a brisk 30- to 45-minute walk on the Big Meadows Trail. It's the Walk with a Doc program, and it's happening in more than 100 locations across the country as well as in Canada, Australia and Russia.

Walk with a Doc was founded by Columbus cardiologist David Sabgir, M.D., in 2005 to counteract the epidemic of chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity. The concept is simple. You need a committed corps of volunteer physicians and a park and recreation agency that is willing to host a walking event in its local park system. Either a hospital or regional healthcare system sponsors Walk with a Doc, which provides a source of general physicians, cardiologists and pediatricians to lead the walks. A sponsor can also provide funding for marketing, apparel and healthy snacks at walking events.

A typical Walk with a Doc program begins with the doctor discussing a relevant health topic and answering questions asked by the participants. At many locations, health assessments such as blood pressure tests are performed by a nurse or medical- school resident. Then the walkers hit the trail with the doctor at their side, continuing the health dialogue.

Dr. Sabgir organized the Walk with a Doc program when office talks failed to motivate patients to exercise. "More than 90 percent of the diseases my patients and I tackle together in the office or the hospital are related to a sedentary lifestyle, yet it has been reported that only 3 percent of people are achieving the appropriate amount of exercise each week," Sabgir laments. "Frustrated by the inability to increase my patient's activity level, I told them I would be at the park on Saturday and would love for them to join me." And they have been walking ever since. …

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