JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Many obstacles, such as food insecurity and lack of medical insurance, hamper the area’s most vulnerable residents in their efforts to live healthy and productive lives.
They are oftentimes even unaware of the services available to assist them.
So, on Wednesday, the Harrisburg-based YMCA Center for Healthy Living, in conjunction with Pennsylvania’s Health Insurance Marketplace (Pennie), hosted a Health Equity Tour event at the Greater Johnstown Community YMCA.
More than a dozen organizations – including UPMC, Veteran Community Initiatives, Cambria County Child Development Corp., Johnstown Housing Authority, Highmark, PA CareerLink and Alternative Community Resource Program – were on hand to provide information and support.
“We’re able to offer resources for people in the community, just to get as many resources in one place as possible,” Heavenly Smith, a YMCA Center for Healthy Living program specialist, said.
Smith pointed to food insecurity as one of the most common concerns among people who attend the tour events in different towns.
“Definitely food insecurity is a big initiative for us, especially coming out of COVID,” Smith said. “It sounded the alarm for people, children especially who were going to school and relying on school for their meals, families with financial problems. We’re having a hard time finding food resources.”
UPMC, Highmark and Pennie provided information about health insurance.
“There are a lot of uninsured people in our area,” said Kristina Marinkovich, director of wellness and chronic disease programs with the Johnstown YMCA. “Health insurance, I think, is the real key, making sure the health care is affordable.”
The tour stop fit into the Johnstown YMCA’s overall effort to help improve the health of local residents.
Marinkovich said a diabetes program is set to begin at the Y in March.
Also, a six-week “Healthy You in 22” program, focused on nutrition, exercise and education, recently started.
“It’s all about finding ways to live healthy, making small changes in their diets on a daily basis, moving more, making healthier substitutions for drinks and food,” Marinkovich said. “People don’t realize how easy it could be to live a healthy lifestyle. Here what we’re trying to do is educate people on living a healthy lifestyle.”
Enrollment in “Healthy You in 22” is still open.
Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.