WIMAUMA — Nearly everyone living in this rural community is considered poor, by U.S. government standards.
And with poverty, typically comes poor health.
Pastor Carlos Irizarry and his Wholesome Community Ministries is spearheading a program to help people in Wimauma beat the statistics.
The Wholesome Health Campaign, open to all in this southernmost Hillsborough County community, begins on Jan. 11.
The six-month initiative is designed to help Wimauma families learn better nutrition, how to purchase healthy foods on a limited budget, exercises that can help thwart high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels, even ways to help kick the cigarette habit.
“It’s a real community collaboration,” said Irizarry, who also is a registered nurse and runs a weekly clinic out of the church at 16110 U.S. 301, just north of County Road 674. He is working to partner with other groups that will help him put Wimauma on a healthy track.
Wimauma has a high percentage of Hispanics, many of whom work in agriculture. The community is east of Ruskin, not far from the Manatee County line.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 5,104 of Wimauma’s 5,206 residents fall under the federal government’s poverty threshold of $23,550 for a family of four. Nearly 30 percent have no health insurance, according the American Community Survey five-year estimate, a compilation of statistics from 2008 to 2012.
The new initiative stresses prevention, said Associate Pastor Glenn Wenzel. “We’ve done random screenings at the church and aren’t surprised’’ to find many people who don’t realize they have diabetes.
By screening and getting people into a healthy regimen, many health issues like high blood pressure and obesity can be prevented, said Wenzel, who also is a registered nurse.
“The clinic and this new program is our vision on how to touch the lives of those who need assistance,’’ Wenzel said. “Good health is just part of our DNA. It’s who we are.’’
The church plans to have child care in place for those who wish to attend regular sessions on nutrition, take Zumba classes, join a support group for smoking cessation or participate in other ways, Irizarry said.
Snap Fitness, in Riverview, has already agreed to teach exercise classes, and Irizarry is working on recruiting more partners to get the program off to a quick start, he said.
Meanwhile, the Hispanic Services Council, which runs the Bridges to Health program in Wimauma, is working with the University of South Florida to compile health statistics on people in the community, said Amparo Nunez, who heads Bridges to Health.
Each participant in the Wholesome Health Campaign – Irizarry expects 300-plus – will fill out a questionnaire asking them their health issues and goals. Irizarry will refer back to those questionnaires to see what progress participants have made each month.
In May, those who are interested can take part in a 5k walk/run that Irizarry is planning.
“It’s a real collaboration, to help people to live a healthier life,” he said.
To learn more, call Wholesome Community Ministries at (813) 633-2570.