Statewide program cares for women's health

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BENNINGTON >> It's hard enough to create a goal and stick to it, but it's even harder to make a New Year's resolution and follow through with it for 365 days. Generally, resolutions include getting more exercise, saving up money, quitting smoking, or eating better. For the members of Ladies First, it means improving their overall health for free.

The Bennington Free Clinic's state program and grant now offers a free health club membership as part of a cardiovascular risk assessment.

Ladies First members age 30 and above, can use the following Bennington health clubs at no cost: Recreation Center (665 Gage St.), Anytime Fitness (120 Depot St.), Andrea Malinowski's Optionz Health and Fitness (160 Benmont Ave, South Wing), Revolution Racquet and Fitness Club (160 Benmont Ave), Curves (748 Main St.), and Weight Watchers (104 Kocher Drive). Curves and Weight Watchers are free to women eligible statewide.

"It's a starting point, but we will advocate to get the age requirement lower, because there's certainly women in this town who are much younger and morbidly obese who could benefit," Sue Andrews, executive director of the Bennington Free Clinic said.

"If a woman has high blood pressure, diabetes and her BMI is over 25, that would put her in a position to be eligible for a free fitness membership," Women's Health Champion, Cindy Krautheim said.

Ladies First provides free mammograms, cervical pap tests and heart health checkups. The program also assists in nutrition counseling, health coaching, weight loss and with quitting smoking.

"A lot of the hospital and school employees, have a large number of women who would be eligible in every way," Krautheim said.

In order to be eligible for a Ladies First fitness membership, a Provider's Report screening must first be completed by visiting a physician. If an applicant doesn't have a physician, then Ladies First will locate one, Krautheim said. Since July, 18 women have completed their screenings that include breast, cervical and cardiovascular risk assessment.

"We are very excited to be able to offer eligible women the opportunity for fitness and weight loss programs. It is not available or necessary for everyone, but everyone does know someone who can use the Ladies First free benefits," Krautheim said. "It is my job to reach all eligible women to become enrolled."

To enroll in Ladies First, women must be 21 or older, a Vermont resident, and financially eligible by earning up to 250 percent of the poverty level. Additionally, the statewide program helps women with no insurance as well as with insurance, but with an expensive deductible, and women who have incurred medical bills for breast or cervical care in the 90 days previous to membership.

One in four Vermont women age 40 to 64 is income eligible for Ladies First, according to Krautheim.

"There's been things that are called the determinates of health. They are genetics, environment, what you get for health care, behavior and out of those four, behavior has the biggest impact on our health," Andrews said. "And that's where we're trying to change behavior, by providing access to working out or access to a nutritionist who can revise a diet."

For more information on Ladies First, visit www.ladiesfirstvt.org or contact Cindy Krautheim at (802) 447-3700, ext. 4.

Makayla McGeeney can be reached at (802) 447-7567, ext. 118


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