Document Type

Master's Culminating Experience

Publication Date



Obesity is at epidemic levels in the United States, and is directly associated with decreased life expectancy, reduced quality of life, and increased health care costs. Public health system partners agree that reversing obesity trends will require a concerted effort led by government as well as business and civic organizations and that a multi-faceted approach will be needed to transform communities into places where the healthy choice becomes the easy choice for everyone. A foundational role for local health departments is to promote healthy behaviors. Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County (PHDMC) has a history of providing community-based health education programs and preventive screening services, and is committed to reducing barriers to access, particularly for populations experiencing health disparities. Funding for these programs and initiatives emanate from a property tax levy, federal and state grants, and from foundations. This case study begins in February 2008, and explores PHDMC’s rationale for assuming operational control of a fitness center located in a highly underserved neighborhood in southwest Dayton, Ohio, eventually named The Healthy Lifestyle Center (HLC). The study outlines the HLC’s strengths and weaknesses, lessons learned during the first three years of business, and the decision-making process used to determine whether to continue the program after 2011. This in-depth case study illustrates the challenges as well as opportunities confronting local health department leaders as they endeavor to build chronic disease prevention capacity and implement evidence-based practices in today’s complex, rapidly changing political, social and economic climate.

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