In our mission to increase fitness access, the Raritan Valley Y has been a proponent of shared use, mutually beneficial agreements, and open access with private fitness facilities, especially when this can help teach children to swim and address chronic health issues that may be mitigated by exercise.
In our quest to serve the fitness needs of our community, some of our primary obstacles include:
- Difficulty of finding private entities that are willing to share/lease/donate fitness or pool use.
- Limited availability and high cost of renting/leasing.
- Reluctance toward dealing with underserved populations.
- Insurance and liability concerns.
Our particular Shaping NJ grant included a plan to partner with a city health clinic that was starting a diabetes management program. The Y would provide free and open fitness center access to those enrolled. Since the inception of the grant, the health clinic has closed. But the mission lives on.
The Y staff has gone to St. Peter’s Hospital in New Brunswick to seek a new partner, and identify low-income city residents with chronic disease whose symptoms could be lessened with regular exercise. While the process of providing fitness to the underserved is difficult, we are making important progress in this area:
- We are opening important channels of communication with hospital administration, and have an important ally in Dr. Meena Murthy, Chief of Endocrinology for the Thyroid and Diabetes Center at St. Peter’s University Hospital.
- We are gaining recognition and visibility among the community that needs our service.
- We are seen as part of the solution to a complex social problem.
- We know that, through fitness and exercise, we have the ability to provide our community with a better quality of life.