It was a thrilling moment, to say the least.
There was the Chief of the Detroit Police Department – the highly regarded and hardworking James E. Craig – standing in front of a microphone at police headquarters on Third Street and telling the world:
“I have a sound bite for you: Let’s handcuff obesity!”
It happened on Tuesday afternoon (Dec. 8) in the heart of the Motor City . . . as the 1,600-member DPD kicked off a year-long health partnership with the Detroit Medical Center.
Inspired by the DMC’s own ongoing “61 Day Health Challenge” (our third annual holiday-season campaign to eat better and get more exercise), the DPD on Tuesday launched an ambitious, year-long nutrition and exercise program aimed at helping its police officers and support staff to get in better shape . . . in order to do an even better job of protecting the citizens of this great city.
While dozens of enthusiastic police officers and DPD support staffers were being screened by DMC clinicians for weight, blood sugar, cholesterol and other health risk factors, I wandered around the Michigan Room at DPD headquarters and talked to lots of people who were very interested in helping Detroit’s Finest to do a better job of serving the public better by improving their own health.
Among the most vocal of the cheerleaders was Chief DMC Administrative Officer Conrad L. Mallet, Jr., the former Michigan Supreme Court Justice, who told the applauding throng: “This is a very exciting day for all of us. Today is part of pushing [the DMC] hospitals out into the community . . . and what the Detroit Police Department is doing is a wonderful example of how community organizations can partner to improve public health.”
The beaming police chief said he couldn’t agree more and then went on to outline the upcoming yearlong DPD health campaign. The first step, he said, will be a “90-Day Weight Loss Challenge” in which police officers and staff will work with the DMC to shed extra pounds and improve cardiovascular fitness.
The second step in the program calls for DPD precincts and bureaus to form competing teams that will vie with each other to see which can lose the most weight and most improve their fitness levels during calendar 2016.
During the same period, meanwhile, the DMC will assign a skilled “life-stress” clinician to the DPD to help officers cope with the psychological and emotional rigors that often accompany police work.
Describing the benefits he hopes will flow to his officers and staff, the chief was quick to point out that “studies have shown that an officer who’s physically fit will have a [higher] level of confidence and will be able to resolve [law-enforcement] situations . . . often without the necessity of having to use force.
“It’s clear that an officer who’s fit interacts with the public differently – and fitness and wellness also have a direct effect on reducing stress in police officers.”
It was an afternoon to remember, for sure. When my own turn came to step up to the microphone, I told the participants how pleased the DMC was to be joining the DPD in a “Health Challenge” designed to help everybody in southeast Michigan.
Our own 61 Day Health Challenge (motto: “Less sugar, more steps, eat more fruit!”) will run through January 1, and the results so far have certainly been encouraging – with hundreds and hundreds of Michiganders reportedly keeping their “Pledge” to cut back on junk foods and exercise more during the holiday season.
Make no mistake: this is a very exciting time for public health throughout the Detroit area. As the high-spirited gathering in the Michigan Room at the DPD began to break up, I was delighted to hear the chief telling a reporter: “To accomplish our mission, we have to work with our partners throughout the city – and the DMC is a very significant partner in that effort.
“Working effectively with our partners makes very good sense to me!”
[To learn more about the Challenge and how you can take part, just click on www.dmc.org/61days.]