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Richmond Area Health Center [News]

Press Release

Release Date: October 9, 2012
HRCHC Contact: Communications Department
Telephone: 207-660-9914

Patients reach for the stars

Richmond weight loss program continues to inspire patients to live healthier

Patients reach for the starsRICHMOND – As waist lines across the state of Maine grow and wallets shrink, one community health center is tackling the obesity epidemic head-on. On Tuesday, the Richmond Area Health Center celebrated the second year of a successful weight loss program. Patients have lost over 7,800 total combined pounds through prevention measures such as healthy eating and daily exercise and, addition, saved thousands on unnecessary medications. On hand to commemorate this achievement was Dr. Sheila Pinette, Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control, who praised the health center staff for leading the way in health care reform.

“The Richmond Area Health Center staff has done a great job,” she said. “Through tremendous persistence and hard work I know that the patients themselves have had to put in a lot of effort and change the way they do things. Through education, counseling and the support of their providers and the staff here, they have made a difference.”

Dr. Pinette said that Maine’s weight issues have been slowly building over the last 20 years and that programs like these play an essential role in the long fight to reverse it.

“In Maine, one in four children is affected by obesity and two of three adults are overweight,” said Dr. Pinette. “Its all about reversing a culture where we have gotten used to eating processed and fast foods, and living a sedentary life. Studies show that prevention is the best and most cost-effective way to help turn these things around.”

Tom Bartol, NP created the Star Program in 2010 with the goal of rewarding and encouraging patients to lose weight and commit to a healthier lifestyle. Through the program, staff members applaud a patient for any weight loss at a doctor’s visit. Whether it is one pound or 20, patients write their name on a star, add it to the wall, and leave the health center inspired to lose even more.

“Through a simple, no-cost program based on identification, encouragement, affirmation, and caring, our patients have been losing weight,” says Bartol. “In the past 12 months we have seen over 400 patients lose a combined total of 3,223 pounds. This is equal to the weight of about 19 average-sized people or two large horses.  This is the kind of reform our health care system today needs.”

So everyone could see just how much weight patients have lost in the past year, Richmond patient Bruce Alexander had two Percheron draft horses on hand from his Dresden farm to serve as a visual representation.

Bartol went on to say that even though the U.S. spends an average of $8,200 per person on health care each year, well above what other countries pay, the World Health Organization ranks the U.S. 37th in health care performance, between Costa Rica and Slovenia.

“We believe that health care can be different in this country,” he said. “Through motivating patients, inspiring them, challenging them, encouraging them and, most of all building a relationship of hope, we will put the ‘health’ and the ‘care’ back into healthcare.”

Theresa Foye of Pittston is one of those patients who has contributed to the success of the program. A Richmond patient for nearly 20 years, Theresa was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2007. She was determined to change her lifestyle and not rely on expensive medications. She worked closely with Bartol, her primary care provider, to do just that.

“I’ve learned so many different things about healthier foods to eat,” said Theresa. “I have found one little secret that has helped me and that is lettuce. We all grew up in a generation where we ate lots of bread, lots of Maine potatoes and macaroni and that contributed over the years to my demise. To put anything into a lettuce wrap is very filling and very good.”

Theresa has lost 50 pounds over the past five years and says that she is a “work in progress.” She hopes to inspire others to change their lives and learn the lessons that she has learned and hopefully be able to stay off medications.

“The Star Program is really great,” says Theresa. “You feel like a little kid who has done something good. Everyone claps when you lose even a small amount of weight and you get to place your star on the wall.”

Bartol and all the staff at the Richmond Area Health Center will continue the Star Program for a third year and hope to celebrate a 10,000 pound loss next October.

For more information on the RAHC and their weight loss program visit or call (207) 737-4359.

RAHC is a practice of HealthReach Community Health Centers, a system of eleven federally qualified health centers and two dental practices in Central and Western Maine. Dedicated providers deliver high quality health care to citizens in over 80 rural communities. To ensure access for everyone, HealthReach accepts major insurances and Medicare and MaineCare, offers an Affordable Care Program based on family size and income to uninsured and underinsured residents, and assist patients in enrolling in programs that help pay for health care and medications. A private, non-profit organization celebrating a 37-year history, HealthReach is funded by patient fees, grants and individual donations. 

24 Gardiner Street     Richmond   Maine   04357  Tel: (207) 737-4359  Fax:(207) 737-4412 Directions