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During a recently completed Community Health Needs Assessment, obesity-related issues made its way onto the list of pressing issues facing the Columbus community. It’s not a problem unique to Columbus but in most communities located throughout the United States.

So in an effort to provide insight and information into healthier lifestyle choices, two Columbus Community Hospital dietitians are hosting weekly Ask the Dietician courses inside of the multipurpose area at Columbus Family YMCA to provide a platform for nutritional learning and productive conversation.

“Anything that they (people) can do to improve their lifestyle, to improve their health, to prevent disease is big,” said Joan Plummer, registered dietitian specializing in outpatient diabetes care. “So we just kind of decided at the beginning of the year that we would offer a free hour of dietitian time so that people in the community can come and ask questions about nutrition."

Courses started in the beginning of January and will be running through at least the end of the year, Plummer said. Generally, 30 minutes is allotted for teaching and another 30 minutes is reserved for a question-and-answer session between instructors and attendees, she said.

Although topics are different most sessions, they all relate to people living their best, healthiest lives, said Susan Olmer, another CCH dietician, who primarily works with inpatient health care.

“Pretty much all the topics interrelate, we talk about a lot of the same things, eating more fruits and vegetables and whole grains, getting our vitamins and our minerals and our micronutrients and our antioxidants, just all of those things that help prevent big things like cancer, diabetes, heart disease," she said. "All of this interrelates to prevent some of that disease.”

Although there have been attendees at previous sessions, both instructors said they hope to see more participation in upcoming sessions, starting with the July 6 ‘Tips for a Healthy Cookout’ lesson. But numbers aren’t the most important thing, Olmer added, noting getting through to just a few people can make classes like these worthwhile.

People also make the assumption that healthy eating is expensive and difficult, which doesn’t have to be the case, Olmer said. Attending Ask the Dietitian courses might help some people view healthy living and its relative simplicity in a new light.

“People think it’s just this really hard thing to be healthy when in reality there is so much out there for people to access that there really isn’t too much in way of excuses for not doing better,” Olmer said. “We may not be perfect, but if you can add three to four servings of fruits and vegetables into your diet every day, you’re going to improve your health tremendously.”

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at

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