YMCA and Independent Health launch joint effort

December 13, 2011 Updated Dec 13, 2011 at 9:06 AM EDT

By WKBW News
By Business First by Tracey Drury, Buffalo Business First Reporter

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December 13, 2011 Updated Dec 13, 2011 at 9:06 AM EDT

YMCA members can expect to see more programming aimed at healthy living, to be developed by a joint steering committee with Independent Health.

The new programming was announced as part of groundbreaking activities Monday morning for the YMCA Buffalo Niagara's new $23 million, 90,000-square-foot Northtowns family branch.

The Independent Health Family Branch YMCA on Tech Drive in Amherst adjacent to Erie Community College will replace the existing 26,000-square-foot Northeast Family YMCA branch in Snyder further west on Main Street.

Independent Health gained naming rights in perpetuity through a $2 million contribution. But the health insurance company plans to add more than just its name to the facility, with plans to actively work with the YMCA to develop programming that promotes healthy living.

As part of the partnership, a joint steering team with representatives of both the YMCA and Independent Health will develop programming across all YMCA Buffalo Niagara branches emphasizing prevention versus treatment. According to a YMCA news release, the focus is on the development and measurement of activities designed to promote behavior (lifestyle) changes, leading to improved health status and quality of life.

Independent Health will also have an on-site presence at the Independent Health Family Branch YMCA.

Michael Cropp, president and CEO of Independent Health, says the funds represent an investment in members' health.

"This partnership and investment in the new Independent Health Family Branch YMCA allows Independent Health the opportunity to establish an integrated medical fitness model that will engage our members and the entire community in health promotion and wellness activities with the ultimate goal of managing and preventing chronic conditions, thus lowering the medical cost trend," he said.

The two-story branch will have features similar to the Southtowns Family Branch, including two 7,700-square-foot gymnasiums, an indoor running/jogging track, fitness center/weight room, two swimming pools, aerobic studios, adventure room, child watch, multi-purpose rooms and locker rooms.

The site will also include a physical rehabilitation center and teaching kitchen for nutritional education. Independent Health will also have an on-site presence, offering health and wellness activities and customized fitness programs and discounted fees for members.

"Collaborations with innovative organizations such as Independent Health provide the opportunity for those wanting to take the first step toward a healthier lifestyle to do so at the YMCA," said William Collins, board chairman of the YMCA. "The addition of the health care and medical components will further strengthen the viability and success of the new facility while supporting the organization's ongoing efforts."

When the new site opens, the existing Northtowns branch will be transferred to Daemen College, located just across the street.

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