Priority Health, Mercy and Spectrum fight obesity epidemic at ShapeMichigan


ShapeMichigan is a statewide initiative organized by major health care organizations to address the obesity epidemic. Photo via

Priority Health, Mercy Health and Spectrum Health are jointly launching ShapeMichigan at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids on Jan. 11 with the screening of an HBO documentary and educational panel discussions to address the obesity epidemic.

And, no, there won’t be any supersized buttered popcorn.

Michigan has the dubious distinction of being ranked fifth in the nation for the largest number of obese people, according to a statement by Priority Health. Only half of Michigan’s children get physical exercise every day, the health insurer said, and Michigan residents are greatly at risk for diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, which are among the leading causes of death in the state.

Priority Health is a nonprofit HMO that insures more than 600,000 people in Michigan and is owned by the Spectrum Health System.

ShapeMichigan is an initiative uniting business leaders, health care providers, educators, students and families in an effort to improve the health of local communities. The event is free, including the HBO documentary, “The Weight of the Nation.”

The Grand Rapids ShapeMichigan is the second such event. The first was in Traverse City on Nov. 14, with Priority Health collaborating with Munson Medical Center.

“ShapeMichigan is an initiative focused on creating awareness and finding real-life solutions to our state’s obesity crisis,” said Paula Murphy, vice president of marketing and corporate communications for Priority Health. “We hope to motivate and inspire positive lifestyle changes, at home, at work and at school.”

Leading obesity experts from Mercy Health and Spectrum will engage in what is described as a “robust” discussion at DeVos Place, regarding the obesity epidemic and its impact on business, schools and the community.

“Mercy Health is committed to helping our patients and members of our community make healthier lifestyle choices,” said Roger Spoelman, CEO of Mercy Health. “We’re pleased to partner with Priority Health on this important initiative. ShapeMichigan is a perfect forum to gather with fellow community leaders to begin this imperative discussion and to continue to tackle the obesity epidemic.”

“Supporting Priority Health’s ShapeMichigan initiative is a step forward in addressing the pressing health problems caused by escalating childhood obesity,” said Tom Hanley, director of  corporate social responsibility at Spectrum Health.

ShapeMichigan runs from 8 a.m. to noon and will be paired with ShowSpan’s LivingWell-Grand Rapids, a Health & Fitness Show, which runs from noon to 8 p.m. on Jan. 11, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Jan. 12. ShapeMichigan sponsors will have adjacent booth space within the larger event, and ShapeMichigan attendees will have free admission to the show.

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