New Work Being Done to ‘LIFT’ the North Country’s Health and Wellness

The Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization (FDRHPO) has begun work on a new project that aims to curb rates of obesity and diabetes in the North Country.

The efforts are part of a statewide initiative funded by the Department of Health’s “Linking Interventions for Total Population Health” (LIFT) grant. FDRHPO is one of six LIFT grant recipients across New York, responsible for projects in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

Irene Parobii, FDRHPO’s Population Health Coordinator, says obesity and diabetes are two of the most common preventable health problems in the tri-county region.

lift“Obesity affects about one-third of adults and one-fifth of children in the North Country,” she said. “It is a direct risk factor for a number of chronic diseases – including type 2 diabetes, a condition that at least 10% of adults in our region report having.”

Ms. Parobii said funding from the LIFT grant will be used to promote physical activity, proper nutrition and environmental changes that encourage a healthy lifestyle. Working closely with several community partners, FDRHPO is focused on the following three projects between now and 2020:


In many cases, chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or COPD are preventable. In all cases, they can be managed or treated, allowing the individual to live a healthy, fulfilling life. Our community currently has three types of programs designed to help – a Diabetes Prevention Program, a Diabetes Self-Management Program and a Chronic Disease Self-Management Program.

Using its LIFT grant, FDRHPO will help promote these three programs to the public and ensure that local health care providers are referring patients to them when appropriate. It will also work with insurers to expand payment options and make the programs more affordable for all.

More information about these three programs, including where they are offered in the North Country, is available at


Complete Streets are designed to be safe for users of all ages and abilities, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and motorists. Not all Complete Streets look the same, but some common features include sidewalks, safe road crossings, roundabouts, and bike lanes.

Some communities in the North Country have already adopted Complete Streets policies and begun to implement them in recent construction projects, but many more towns and villages have no Complete Streets policies.

Roughly one-third of North Country residents say they ‘never’ walk around their neighborhoods — specifically, 31% in Jefferson County, 37% in Lewis, and 32% in St. Lawrence,” Ms. Parobii said. “We need to ensure all of our region’s municipalities are walkable, giving people an opportunity to be active and connect with their neighbors.

For this portion of the LIFT grant, FDRHPO has subcontracted with the St. Lawrence Health Initiative and the Tug Hill Commission to conduct workshops in communities, identify potential projects and assist with policy adoption.


Schools with comprehensive wellness policies promote healthy eating and physical activity, which helps improve a student’s academic performance, lower obesity rates and teach healthy habits for adulthood. Resources for developing and updating wellness policies can be viewed at

Like with Complete Streets, some North Country schools already have comprehensive wellness policies in place, and others do not. FDRHPO is working with the St. Lawrence Health Initiative and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County to help schools draft and update individualized wellness policies to be approved by their Boards of Education.

The goal is for four additional school districts in the tri-county region to have wellness policies in place by 2020. However, partners are currently on track to implement policies in nine additional school districts, bringing our region’s total to 14 school districts with comprehensive wellness policies. In fact, two districts in St. Lawrence County already have Board of Education-approved policies in place.

“The LIFT grant gives our region a great opportunity to lay plans for a healthier future,” Ms. Parobii said. “FDRHPO and its subcontractors are working hard to ensure these three health improvement programs have a lasting positive impact, and I’m confident that they will.”


*The project described was supported by Funding Opportunity Number CMS 1G1CMS331402 from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The contents provided are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of HHS or any of its agencies.

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