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July 17--  Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia is trying to build a community network that will promote healthy lifestyle choices.

"How can we keep people out of the emergency room.  How can we get people to make healthy choices so they're not sick in the first place.  The emergency room is not the place for chronic disease," says Dr. Nancy Stanley, Director of the local Mercy Medical Clinic and a hospital employee.

"One weekend I worked as a physical therapist at the hospital and there were two 40-year-old men in there who had had strokes.  The reason they had strokes was they didn't have blood pressure medicine that cost four dollars.  They were thinking I can't afford the doctor and I can't afford the medicine, so they didn't get it.  Now, guess who's paying for their medicine for the rest of their lives, we are," Dr. Stanley notes.

She says the Mercy Medical Clinic, which cares for low income and unemployed people, treats people everyday who have made poor choices about their health.

"People who come to the Mercy Medical Clinic are in their 40's and 50's.  We see people who have made poor lifestyle choices whether it's food, cigarettes or mental health.  It's never an encouraging thing to have to seek healthcare." she says.

Dr. Stanley is leading an effort to form a network of caregivers which will apply for federal grants promoting better lifestyle choices and making sure the community supports healthier living.

"They way you do that is you increase the opportunities and you decrease the barriers.  Barriers in this community are we don't have bike routes, we don't have adult activities for exercise and we don't have healthy food choices like farmers' markets and we also have too much dollar menu and not enough affordable, healthy food," she believes.

Last month Dr. Stanley hosted a meeting of local stakeholders as the first step in forming a community network.