Rita Freeney imagines Oklahoma City’s least healthy residents walking their way to a better life.
It’s one of the ideas taking root on Oklahoma City’s northeast side, where a 54-acre health and wellness campus conceived to transform ideas for healthy living into action will open in May.
Public health officials hope gathering together a range of services will give residents a chance to renew neighborhoods beset by obesity, drug abuse and crime.
“Come walk with us,” said Freeney, executive director of Sisters in Motion, one of the groups partnering with the Oklahoma City-County Health Department in the Northeast Regional Health and Wellness Campus.
Public health officials purposely chose their site on NE 63 in the 73111 ZIP code.
Cigarettes, processed food, no place to play and drugs contribute to 70 percent of premature deaths in 73111, known as the unhealthiest ZIP code in Oklahoma City.
“Much of that is preventable,” said Gary Cox, the Health Department’s director.
At the center of the campus is a 36,800-square-foot, $6.9 million building primarily of brick with a metal roof and designed to be energy efficient and inexpensive to maintain.
Constructed in three distinct sections, the building is designed to promote integration of services and collaboration among health professionals, said architect Duane Mass.
Inside, primary medical care, mental health care and social services will be provided by teams working to ensure clients get preventive care to head off the onset of disease and continuing care to manage chronic illness.
Community groups will use a 400-seat auditorium. A kitchen is designed for cooks to demonstrate techniques for preparing healthy meals.
Combined with plans for a community vegetable garden and farmers’ market, the demonstration kitchen is part of a strategy to overcome a lack of healthy eating choices in neighborhoods — known as food deserts — where the last full-service grocery stores closed years ago.
Trails for walkers at all levels of fitness are set to open at an open house May 4.
Plans provide for more challenging walking trails, the community gardens and farmers’ market, a playground, an outdoor amphitheater, and fields for soccer, baseball, softball and football.
A second 26,500-square-foot, $4 million building is planned for partners providing such things as continuing education, job training, domestic violence intervention and children’s reading skills.
All on a site flanked by Deep Fork Creek and overlooking Remington Park racetrack.
‘In this heart and soul’
Healthy living equates to a good environment for business, said Dr. Stephen Cagle, chairman of the Oklahoma City-County Board of Health.
“We are now an aggressive wellness organization,” he said. “We are in this heart and soul.”
Freeney said she sees hope for lifting — or walking — Oklahoma City out of its place as one of the nation’s least healthy cities.
“I can envision Oklahoma City being one of the healthiest cities in the country,” she said.
IF YOU GO
Open house planned
• What: The Northeast Regional Health and Wellness Campus open house with health screenings, fun run, music, face painting, healthy cooking demonstrations.
• When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 4.
• Where: 2600 NE 63, Oklahoma City.
TO LEARN MORE
Sisters in Motion
• Who: Sisters in Motion, one of the partners in the new Northeast Regional Health and Wellness Campus, sponsors indoor walks and other activities to promote good health.
• When: Various times, including 8 a.m. Saturdays at Penn Square Mall, 1901 Northwest Expressway.
• Contact: Executive Director Rita Freeney, 213-7767.
• View schedule: www.sistersinmotionok.org.