A Keene, N.H. program aimed at improving the health and physical fitness of mentally ill persons is now being expanded statewide due to its success. Initially launched in 2003,
SHAPE (an acronym for "Self Help Action Plan for Empowerment") has been awarded a $10 million dollar federal grant to help pay for the expansion. The program serves a vital need since people living with mental illness can expect to live an average of 25 years less than the general public.
Speaking to the Associated Press , SHAPE's supervisor Dr. Stephen Bartels said he believes that spending money on healthy efforts upfront is far less costly than having to treat diseases like diabetes later in life. Community partnerships between the mental health center, local colleges providing nutritional counseling and the YMCA form the backbone of the program. Research conducted has shown that participants experience number of benefits including healthier habits, decreases in waist size and blood pressure, and improved attitude. Similar programs have also been implemented on the local level in Michigan and Texas.