Brandon women step up to lead Healthy Hometown program

Jill Meier, Journal editor

Jill Meier

Journal editor


Kaycee Albertson wants you to know first and foremost that Healthy Hometown is not about “joining a gym or going on a diet.”

“It’s about doing life as you do … and to make healthy the easier choice,” she said.

The Healthy Hometown program is an endeavor of Wellmark, a health insurance company that does business in South Dakota and Iowa. The company promotes the Healthy Hometown program in communities of the states in which they operate in. And now, Brandon is joining the Healthy Hometown journey, thanks to community volunteers like Albertson and Kim Brand.

In January, Angie Brown, a community health manager for Wellmark’s Healthy Hometown program, introduced the idea to Brandon’s Park Advisory Board. While the board was receptive to the program, they felt it was important for residents of the community to lead the charge.

Albertson, a personal trainer with Anytime Fitness in Brandon, and Kim Brand, a staff member at Circuit Fitness, also in Brandon, are now on the hunt for three to five more volunteers to serve on the Healthy Hometown committee. Their goal is to have a committee of nine to 11 individuals.

Linda Schoby, Ashley Hoffman and Tracey Kruckenberg have all volunteered to be on the Healthy Hometown committee. Albertson said they also welcome male participation on the committee as well.

Albertson said she stepped up to fulfill her desire to be more involved in the community and this was the perfect opportunity for the personal trainer to do so.

“What I do is talk about health and well-being all of the time, so I felt it was a good fit,” she said. “It’s not a huge commitment, it’s just something to offer people new opportunities to be healthier.”

In its infancy, the committee will meet monthly, and their next meeting is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 3 at the City Council Chambers. Brown will also be at that meeting, and once established, the committee will meet on a quarterly basis.

“We plan to meet just once a month while we’re getting our feet wet and trying to establish what we’re going to do with it. It’s not really like it’s a ‘you have to do this’ and ‘you have to do that’. It’s what works for our community and what we’re able to bring about,” Albertson said. “It’s just putting different ideas out there for people to do, because we’re all busy in our own way.”

As for the 8:30 p.m. meeting time, Albertson chalks that up to the young families that both she and Brand have.

“We’re all moms right now, so we like to meet later at night when the kids are all in bed,” she said, adding that meetings should last no more than an hour.

In their first meetings, the small-in-number committee has been discussing possible endeavors. Ideas range from organizing a community garden to establishing a safe walking path complete with “mile markers” and permanent “hash tags” for people to take selfies, to an adult track meet and free cooking and exercise classes at community events, such as kid’s yoga. 

“We’re coming up with different ways for people to be active and involved in the community,” Albertson said. “But it all comes down to who wants to volunteer their time to do something like this.”

For example, “Sioux Falls just got done doing their 100 miles in 100 days, and it was ‘hashtag something Sioux Falls,’ so when people get to that mile marker, they can take a selfie and post it on the Healthy Hometown Brandon Facebook page,” Albertson said.

“Once a committee of nine to 11 volunteers has been reached, a Healthy Hometown Facebook page will be launched. They will use this avenue of social media to market the program and its events. Anyone interested in being a Healthy Hometown committee member should contact Albertson via her personal Facebook page.

“The biggest thing that we want people to know with this is it’s not about going on a diet or joining a gym or being committed to a healthy lifestyle; it’s about making healthy the easier choice,” she said.

In January, Brown introduced the Healthy Hometown concept to the Brandon Park Advisory committee. Wellmark implemented the program in answer to America’s escalating obesity rate. In 1988, Brown said obesity levels across the United States were well below 15 percent. By 2018, that figure ramped up between 20 and 35 percent of the nation’s population being obese.

“In South Dakota, two out of three adults are obese, and that’s kind of startling in a 20-, 30-year period,” Brown said.

Brown informed that 30 to 50 chronic diseases are tied to obesity.

“If you don’t have one of the things on this list, I bet someone in your family does,” she said. “These conditions are very costly and a lot of people don’t have just one of these, they have two or three and costs start doubling or tripling, so that’s why we’re very interested in this.”

For this very reason, Wellmark has put together more than 100 tactics for healthy living that have been proven to make a difference.

“If you put these in place, people will be healthier,” she said.

She added there is some good news to improving community health.

“The good news is that our social and environmental factors – where we live, work, what we have access to and our own behaviors – have a greater impact on our health outcome than our genetics do. So, we like to say that your zip code may influence your health more than your genetic code, and that’s really true when you think of what you have access to,” she said.


The Brandon Valley Journal


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