'Save the Mayor'

Monday, July 31, 2006

Bolivar, Mo. - Mayor Charles Ealy has a history of health problems, including a recent heart attack, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
Tipping the scales at 368 pounds, he opened his life and medical records up recently for public consumption in this tiny town, as part of a campaign designed to save his life.
"Save the Mayor" is a program jointly started by Stephens Pharmacy and Homecare, the YMCA, the local hospital and the county health center to help the mayor regain his health.
"The mayor has been great," said Brady Vestal, manager of Stephens Pharmacy. "There's not that many people who will say, 'I weigh 368 pounds.' He's not ashamed to let people know that he wants to make a change, show it's possible and that other people can do the same thing."
The mayor's insurance pays for a gym membership at the YMCA. Ealy said he dreads exercise but works out weekdays, meets with a trainer regularly, follows a new diet with a hospital dietician and receives other advice from the team.
"Our pharmacist is closely watching his medications and making some recommendations," said Vestal. "We have a respiratory therapist who takes vitals and listens to breath sounds. We report that to a nurse at the health center who tracks all these stats."
The local newspaper publishes the results weekly. So far, the mayor has shed 35 pounds, his average blood sugars are down about 20 points and his blood pressure is normal.
"I feel like a new man," said Ealy, 67.
Partnering with other organizations allows providers to get their names out to the public more cost effectively, says Jack Evans, of Global Media Marketing in Malibu, Calif.
"Co-marketing (is a growing trend) because organizations can't really afford to get out in public themselves," said Evans.
With local residents avidly following Ealy's progress, providers can't buy this kind of publicity.
"You're getting much higher visibility because of your association with the mayor," said Evans. "It's smart to work with a personality."
For Ealy, the support--and scrutiny--of his community is perhaps the greatest motivator.
"I just told myself, 'I can't let them down,'" said Ealy.