Memorial Hospital of Union County recently received $24,973 from the Ohio Hospital Association's Foundation for Healthy Communities.

Memorial Hospital of Union County recently received $24,973 from the Ohio Hospital Association's Foundation for Healthy Communities.

The funds were awarded to five Ohio hospitals, each using the grant money to work with community employers in addressing obesity as a workplace wellness concern.

Hospital created the "Lighten The Load" program, partnering with seven Union County fire departments and their 230 firefighters, including Marysville, Northern Union County, and Allen, Jerome, Leesburg, Liberty and Union townships. Firefighters are at an increased risk for obesity, a major contributing factor to heart attacks and strokes.

These health conditions are the most common cause of fatalities in the field.

The departments' fire chiefs are committed to providing staff time and resources to the program.

They will be using the family-like work atmosphere and competitive nature of fire stations to promote behavioral changes that can improve employees' health.

Wellness specialists from the hospital will be working with each fire department to track data including body composition, weight and blood pressure, create a cookbook with healthier versions of each station's recipes, and assist each department with menu planning and grocery shopping.