Written by: Kristen Costello
When Chad, Charly, and Shelia Tunison brought THE MAX Challenge to Fishers, Indiana, their purpose was clear. They wanted to do everything in their power to help make a difference in the community. When they discovered an opportunity to partner with IU Health, a non-profit healthcare organization affiliated with Indiana University, they immediately jumped at the chance.
“IU Health is unique – they really want to help people get healthier,” Chad said. “They have more of a proactive goal with their healthcare approach, and not every healthcare provider is necessarily like that.”
Every three years, IU Health conducts a community needs assessment in order to determine the greatest health concerns in the region. Recently, obesity and diabetes prevention has risen to the top of their list of priorities. In the past, the organization tried addressing these issues through its Fresh and Fit Program, using step trackers to encourage a healthier, more active lifestyle. However, they saw little success and began seeking alternatives. That’s when they learned about THE MAX Challenge.
“The program caught my attention because it combines fitness and nutrition,” said Joy Davis, Manager of Customer Experience and Community Engagement at IU Health. She initially met Chad through the Chamber of Commerce, and was struck by his positive, caring attitude. “Both Chad and THE MAX fit very well within the image IU Health would like to have – we’re not trying to build business just for the sake of building business, we truly want to make our community healthier.”
With that, IU Health partnered with THE MAX Challenge of Fishers, and a new and improved version of the Fresh and Fit program was born. IU Health committed to covering the cost of the participants’ first ten weeks at THE MAX. In June 2018, fifty people from Hamilton County were selected from a pool of over eight-hundred applicants to take part in the center’s Grand Opening 10-Week Challenge. They were chosen based on their answers to a series of questions about their current health status and why they felt they’d be a good fit for the program.
IU Health monitored the participants’ progress throughout the course of the program using health screenings, which measured cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose, A1C, and weight. These screenings occurred prior to the start of the challenge, at the 5-week point, and then again at the end of the program.
“This was really integral in keeping people motivated during their ten weeks,” Chad said. “It went above and beyond the motivation provided by their before/after photos. They could really see the larger impact it was having on their health.”
Indeed, many members saw significant changes not only to their weight, but also in the other areas measured during their screenings.
“I’m healthier than I’ve ever been in my whole life,” said Duane Emery, who completed his first 10-Week Challenge as part of the Fresh and Fit program and then decided to continue as a Legacy member. Since then, he’s lost 108 pounds, improved his blood pressure, and lowered his A1C and triglyceride levels.
Before starting the program, another participant, Ann Eich, was convinced that she had a slow metabolism and that any efforts to change that would be in vain. After just 10 weeks with THE MAX Challenge, she was able to double her resting metabolic rate.
Davis believes that the motivation offered at THE MAX Challenge played a major role in the participants’ success.
“I can’t say enough about THE MAX team – they’re so caring and supportive,” she said. “They take the time to get to know their members, and truly care about making a difference in their lives. I’ve worked for IU Health for 15 years, and this is definitely the most rewarding program I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of.”
According to the Tunison family, their partnership has increased the number of referrals they receive, not only from members, but also from physicians inside and outside of the IU Health organization. In part, they believe health screenings are to thank for that.
“I think it brings legitimacy and credibility to the program on a totally different level,” Chad said. “The numbers give further proof that we’re not an ordinary gym and that our program actually works. We’ve had the chance to help some of the most vulnerable, at-risk populations build healthier lifestyles.”
Due to its overwhelming success, IU Health expanded the Fresh and Fit program in 2019, increasing the number of Hamilton County participant spots from fifty to one hundred. They’re now accepting applications for 2020 and plan on continuing to
enroll one hundred people from the county annually.