Programs battle Kentucky's fat epidemic
June 15, 2012
by Laura Ungar
Kentucky is one of the nation’s fattest states, with nearly a third of children, 60 percent of women and 80 percent of men considered overweight or obese.
A report released Thursday points out ways to bring those numbers down.
“A Guide to Reducing Obesity,” released by the Partnership for a Fit Kentucky and Shaping Kentucky’s Future Collaborative, details 17 school and community projects aimed at battling the fat epidemic, including four in Louisville.
Some of the projects involve selling produce in urban markets, encouraging people to walk and having recess in middle school.
“We hope the pioneering work featured here will jump-start efforts all across the state,” say the report’s authors. “This report will be a success when the stories it tells inspire other Kentuckians to say, ‘If people can do that in Buckhorn, Lexington, Covington and Hopkinsville, we can do it here!’ ”
One of the featured community programs in Louisville works to support breast-feeding mothers, since breast-fed children are less likely to become obese.
The report describes how Louisville’s four birthing hospitals have banded together to encourage breast-feeding through frequent consultations and, in some cases, home visits.
Another featured Louisville effort is the Healthy in a Hurry Corner Stores project, a city partnership with the YMCA in which six neighborhood markets sell fresh fruits and vegetables in areas where they had been difficult to find.
“Healthy in a Hurry Corner Stores make better nutrition in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables available to families living in food deserts — neighborhoods without a full-service supermarket,” said Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness. “Many of these families don’t have an automobile, and getting access to fresh produce would be extremely difficult for them without” the stores.
Community programs in other areas of the state include an effort by Lexington Parks and Recreation to offer a healthy menu, called Better Bites, at two of its pools; and an initiative in Winchester to mow a walking trail, now used by thousands, on land owned by the community hospital.
The report also focuses on school and early childhood programs. It cites day cares that emphasize physical activity and healthy eating, including the Hands and Feet Learning Center in Berea and the YMCA of Greater Louisville.
It also details “farm to school” programs — one in Louisville that involves buying local produce and another in Owsley County, where schools grew their first garden and started a farmers market on school property in 2011.
Officials said these sorts of programs, especially if they are replicated, can go a long way toward reducing obesity, which contributes to a long list of deadly diseases and costs billions of dollars. According to the Trust for America's Health, health care costs attributable to obesity in Kentucky will reach an estimated $2.3 billion in 2013.
“Obesity is an obstacle to education, economic development and the better quality of life we all want. Yet we struggle to get our citizens and communities engaged in solutions to the problem,” said Dr. Steve Davis, acting commissioner of the state Department for Public Health. “This report makes it easy by providing everyday concepts for building healthier communities.”
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