In the summer of 2010, dozens of community members showed up at the Tyler Junior College West Campus to talk about the Fit City Challenge: an initiative established to make Tyler "a fit city, one step, one bite and one health-conscious decision at a time."
The tag line became a constant in the campaign. People from various businesses, schools and government agencies represented entities at the then-monthly coalition meetings and had solid attendance for about the first two years.
Today, the meetings are quarterly and participation is dwindling, organizers say.
Terrence Ates, coalition member and organizer, said they'd like to get Fit City back to what it used to be. He wants to increase meeting attendance and community engagement. He and coalition members also want more emphasis on worksite wellness programs and citywide initiatives.
In the past three years, Lighten Up East Texas, a regional weight loss challenge, has been a focus.
"My perspection is since we focus more on Lighten Up East Texas, it has drawn away from the original intent of Fit City Tyler," he said.
The original intent, he said, was to raise the public's awareness of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and other preventable conditions, which are prevalent in the area.
Led by a 17-member steering committee, Fit City Tyler is a free opportunity to learn about existing wellness programs and to plan new projects that may positively impact the health of Tyler-area residents. Ates said it also allows individuals to network with Tyler-area businesses in the health field and to increase the awareness of healthy living behaviors that could improve the quality of life.
GETTING THE EXCITEMENT BACK
Betty Bonilla, who works at TJC, has participated in various efforts since the beginning. She said the establishment of Fit City Tyler has been helpful, as it motivates her to be healthier. Email blasts, Lighten Up East Texas, Walk with a Doc and other initiatives that grew from Fit City have helped her stay on task.
"I think anything like that is valuable," Ms. Bonilla said. "I just like being active. I know how important it is so I'm glad they're doing it."
She's also attended some coalition meetings. But she'd like to see more involvement and promotion at the city level and welcomes a return to that passion present in 2010.
"I thought everyone was excited about doing things then," she said. "The last couple (of meetings) I've gone too, they've had new ideas, but the excitement doesn't seem to be there much."
Pointing out that the city doesn't have enough sidewalks or safe bike lanes, she said there are still some projects that can be addressed to truly make Tyler healthier.
Any individual, business, or nonprofit agency can join the Fit City coalition. While it needs a boost in participation, Ates said in its fifth year, Fit City Tyler continues to evolve as a free resource for health and wellness resources.
"Businesses in Tyler that have created worksite wellness programs, or perhaps are requesting assistance in developing a worksite wellness program, utilize Fit City Tyler as an avenue to share lessons learned and to unite employers who want to ensure the health of their employees," he said.
It's also useful for individuals, Ates said. One-on-one guidance is available to speak with a health professional, community health worker, physician, or a fitness specialist.
Participants who attend a meeting have an opportunity to join a workgroup, which includes: community impact, marketing/communications, coalition events and membership/sustainability.