RUODeveloped by the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Minority Health & Health Equity Research Center (MHERC), REACH Up and Out is a five-week program designed to provide African-American women with the knowledge, skills, and encouragement to eat healthy and engage in physical activity. More importantly, the program aims to build a social support network for African-American women, 18 and older, in Alabama and Mississippi who can help each other better take care of themselves and their health. With two successful implementations completed, we shed light on the enriching experiences of the women who have come together, forming friendships, and uniting in their shared commitment to a healthier life.

Aleshia Tyler
Jackson, Mississippi, 43 years old
Implementation 1 Participant
Shanks Health, Housing, Employment, Education, Training and Services (SHEETS)

When I first learned about RUO, it was even before the program officially launched, and I was eager for it to start. My experience with RUO has been truly eye-opening. I've learned a lot especially when it comes to healthy eating and exercise ideas. The program motivated me to set short-term goals and introduced me to exercising at home, which I found both convenient and effective. My favorite exercises were the leg-strengthening activities that include the resistance bands. Since participating in the program, I've been regularly exercising, typically 4 to 5 times a week. I've incorporated the bands, Wii games, and even tennis and bowling into my routine. To anyone considering joining future RUO programs, I'd wholeheartedly encourage them. It's an opportunity for personal growth, networking, and knowledge. I truly enjoyed the program and will continue to use what I’ve learned in my everyday life.

Mary Tolbert
Selma, AL, 50 years old
Implementation 1 Participant
Rural Health Medical Program, Inc. (RHMPI)

My RUO journey has been an eye-opener. I've always been eager to understand how healthy choices impact our bodies, and this program has been a wealth of knowledge. I learned essential lessons on how to guide my family toward healthier eating habits, especially considering their health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. I've gained a deeper awareness of the dos and don'ts in nutrition, as well as the long-term consequences of our dietary decisions. I’ve trained myself to eat smarter by being conscious of the serving sizes on nutrition labels. I've even managed to shed a few pounds by controlling my cravings better. The entire class was an incredible learning experience, fostering discussions about healthy substitutions and building bonds along the way. Our instructor was outstanding, consistently encouraging questions and stimulating discussions. For anyone contemplating joining the program, I'd suggest approaching it with an open mind and a positive attitude.

Verdean Potter
Jackson, MS, 62 years old
Implementation 2
Shanks Health, Housing, Employment, Education, Training and Services (SHEETS)

From day one, the program had a positive impact. We kicked off with exercise, comparing our bodies to vehicles and emphasizing the need to maintain them. This idea stuck with me, urging me to take better care of my body. We learned how to use bands for exercise and had five valuable sessions that changed not only how I think but also how I eat. I started cooking at home, bringing food to work, and incorporating the 'My Plate' guidelines with dairy, whole grains, and proteins. One excellent suggestion was to bring frozen veggies as part of lunch, which saved me money and improved my diet. I used to drink a soda a day, but now it's just 1-2 sodas a week. Learning how to read nutrition labels helped me grocery shop more effectively. I focus on the sodium, carbs, and fat content of each product. This has been incredibly helpful in making healthier food choices and creating a grocery list. Previously, I had high blood pressure and was prescribed medications to keep it under control. With the help of the program, I have managed to get my blood pressure to normal levels without having to visit the doctor. I feel better than I ever have; this program saved my life!

Rosetta Lewis
Orrville, AL, 47 years old
Implementation 2
Rural Health Medical Program, Inc. (RHMPI)

My experience with RUO was wonderful! I learned a lot about healthy eating and the importance of being mindful while eating, even taking notes to remember everything. The program covered eating limitations, exercise habits, and the significance of staying active to promote better blood circulation. Because of a previous ankle injury, my favorite exercises from the program were leg raises to help me be more mobile. The program has motivated me to start doing exercises regularly from Monday to Friday, which has uplifted my energy levels. I even eat healthier by reducing fried foods and opting for baked, grilled, or broiled alternatives. I would highly recommend the program to anyone looking to improve their eating and exercise habits. Overall, I've learned to take better care of myself through this program, and I'm eager to share what I've learned with others.

The RUO program has had a profound impact on the lives of its participants. Through its five-week curriculum, this initiative has empowered African American women in the Alabama and Mississippi region to embrace healthier lifestyles and build a supportive community. The testimonials underscore the program's transformative effects, from enlightening lessons on nutrition labels and exercise routines to the creation of lasting bonds and improved health outcomes. With its two successful implementations, RUO serves as a shining example of how education and community support can lead to positive health outcomes and empower individuals to take control of their well-being.