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Doctor, police officer team up to improve health of local youth

Dr. Ronnie Chu and Richard Bryant, a personal trainer and sergeant in the Demopolis Police Department, are working on a joint project called the Successful Life Initiative (SLI) to improve the health of Demopolis youth aged 7-18 years.

Fourteen participants were identified as being at-risk for certain health issues such as diabetes or high blood pressure and expressed a desire to improve their health via exercise and diet changes.

The SLI members take part in three 30-45 minute exercises per week with Bryant and other children, nightly 45-minute-to-hourlong exercises, a weekly hourlong phone call and a bimonthly home visit with Bryant. During his home visit, Bryant also helps the family improve their diet and make healthy meals.

“You have to take those habits home and make it a part of who you are, as well,” Bryant said.

The program also sets a limit of one hour of inactivity per day and tracks the progress of each participant. They are currently one month in to the program.

Chu and Bryant said that several sibling sets are working together in this program, and parents have begun exercising and improving their own as a result of their children’s involvement.

In addition to the several meetings with Bryant, each SLI member and their parents maintain constant contact with Chu and Bryant to ask questions, receive encouragement and maintain accountability.

Though the program, which began development in November 2019, started as an exercise and diet change routine, Chu and Bryant added teambuilding, responsibility and overall personal development elements.

“It’s more than just showing up at a gym, having a personal trainer, and then exercising and then leaving, because you’re probably going to go right back to what you were doing before,” Bryant said.

SLI members take part in joint exercises and use each other’s strengths to solve problems. Each participant has a list of daily chores to be completed before leaving for school each morning, as well as a set of rotating chores that must be completed before the nightly exercises.

The program lasts for three months, but SLI members can remain in the program after that. Chu and Bryant also hope to begin working with adults and geriatrics in the program’s future.

The program is funded by the Chu Clinic and Demopolis Elite. There is no cost to participants, and the program is currently not accepting new members.

(This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, January 22 issue of the Demopolis Times.)