Wednesday, Dec 17, 2014
Health

Battling the obesity epidemic


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Americans have battled obesity for years, buying into fad diets, quick-fix pills and kick-start weight loss programs. Yet, collectively we have a higher rate of obesity than many countries.

According to Florida's Department of Health, Hernando County has an adult obesity rate of about 29 percent. That number is up from 25 percent in 2010 and higher than the current state average of 26 percent.

For that reason, the Florida Department of Health Hernando is teaming with the Hernando County Library system and the YMCA of the Suncoast to launch a program focusing on nutritional health and fitness. The goal is to help people make better choices to improve their health, thereby helping to eliminate many standard illness and diseases associated with obesity.

The Hernando County Community Health Improvement Plan Partnership (CHIPP) is sponsoring the program, called My Healthy Weight Outreach Project, a free, one-on-one nutrition education program offered to local residents. A grant from the Florida Department of Health will cover the costs.

The goal of the program is to "empower local residents to make healthier food and exercise choices, which in turn will reduce the prevalence of unhealthy body weights in our community and the diseases that can result from it."

My Healthy Weight Outreach Project will run for five months and include 45-minute, one-on-one appointments for participants. The appointments will be scheduled on Wednesdays from April 9 through Sept. 10. They will rotate among three library locations and the Hernando County Family YMCA to broaden access for residents.

Appointments will be scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis.

My Healthy Weight will kick off with a presentation at the Spring Hill branch of the Hernando County Library System on April 2. At that meeting, basic information will be discussed, including tips on good nutrition, which will be used by licensed nutritionists during the one-on-one sessions. Appointments for sessions can be made at that time.

Adult obesity is defined as a body mass index (or BMI) of more than 30.

While vanity is an issue with obesity, it is the health aspects that have the medical industry concerned. Consider that obesity is the biggest contributor to preventable chronic disease, increasing the risk of Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, dementia, osteoarthritis and other maladies.

Moreover, obesity can affect social and emotional health as well, leading to depression, isolation and low self-esteem.

And there is increasing evidence that personal finances are influenced as health-related costs increase and productivity decreases due to job absences.

Also, new research suggests adult obesity might play a role in military preparedness with greater instances of young adults failing to meet the physical requirements.

Obesity is a predictor of many adverse health conditions. Some analysts have projected that obesity has nearly the same association with chronic health conditions as 20 years of aging and "greatly exceeds the associations of smoking and drinking," according to an article written by Susan Moyers, director of training and consulting for the Florida Food Institute and a part-time teacher at the University of Tampa.

The article continues: "We know that a consistent course of counseling and contact is important to weight loss success." And a minimum of 12 sessions was essential in realizing BMI reduction and maintenance.

"Although obesity is a significant concern," said Ann-Gayl Ellis, "this project is not just about obesity. It is about a healthy weight, achieved through healthy eating and adequate physical activity. We are hopeful to meet with people of all shapes and sizes."

Through the program, participants will receive nutritional education by licensed dieticians and qualified nutrition educators.

"The intent is to give general nutrition education and provide tips on such topics as reducing cholesterol and sodium, finding nonmeat protein sources, etc.," Ellis said.

For more information about Hernando County Community Health Improvement Plan Partnership (CHIPP) and My Healthy Weight Outreach Project, visit the Florida Department of Health website at www.floridahealth.gov/chd hernando

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