Thursday, November 05, 2009

Rocky Mount Lifestyle Health Center focuses on heart health

John and Sally Kelly have brought a coronary health improvement program to Rocky Mount.

Sally (left) and John Kelly taught the first CHIP classes in Rocky Mount in 2006. They now run the Rocky Mount Lifestyle Health Center.

Amy Hanek Special to The Roanoke Times

Sally (left) and John Kelly taught the first CHIP classes in Rocky Mount in 2006. They now run the Rocky Mount Lifestyle Health Center.

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Anyone driving through Rocky Mount might have noticed that the former BB&T bank has gone through some sort of transformation. For two years, the drive-through window has been empty, and a new sign now hangs near the front door. It reads: Rocky Mount Lifestyle Health Center.

Patrons walking through the front door are greeted by shelves filled with granola, oats and honey, among other things. A nearby sign announces a cafe's hours and daily plant-based specials.

This little store/cafe has another purpose, too: It also serves as the location for local Coronary Health Improvement Project classes.

CHIP is a scientifically-based program founded by Dr. Hans Diehl and designed to help participants change their eating habits to reverse diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. More than 40,000 graduates from four continents have participated in the program.

Sixteen classes are spread over five weeks. Each class has a different topic. They range from "Eat More, Weigh Less," to "Diet and Cancer." Included with this program are five heart screenings, during which each participant's blood is drawn and analyzed.

Dr. John Kelly runs the classes in Rocky Mount. He met Diehl while attending Loma Linda University in California and said he was intrigued by the program's credibility from the start.

"This is the best-documented outpatient lifestyle program," he said.

John Kelly returned to college late in life and received his master's degree from Loma Linda in 2000 when he was 52. In 2005, John Kelly and his wife, Sally, returned home to Virginia and began teaching CHIP classes almost immediately.

"We wanted to bring those concepts to our home state," John Kelly said.

In October 2006 Franklin County's first CHIP program took place in the fellowship hall of Rocky Mount Seventh-day Adventist Church. There were eighteen participants among five tables, said Sally Kelly.

The next three years were busy ones. The Kellys acquired the bank building and with the help of volunteers, renovated it.

"We still have a vault," Sally Kelly said.

As classes continued and became popular among area residents, the Kellys received a lot of questions about where to shop for unsalted, unroasted sunflower seeds. They soon began selling them to CHIP graduates. More requests rolled in for grains, beans, wheat berries and many more heart-healthy groceries. It wasn't long before Sally Kelly had about a dozen shelves full of all sorts of hard-to-find food products.

The Merry Heart cafe developed in the same manner, making Sally Kelly the chef.

She added that the goal for her and her husband has been simple.

"We want everyone to get healthy and feel good."

Online: www.chiphealth.com

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