Activate Allen County organizes focus areas to combat obesity epidemic

September 19, 2012

LIMA — A study released this week shows adult obesity rates in America could approach or top 60 percent in the coming decades. A local group, however, is working on finding ways to make sure that doesn’t happen locally.

Activate Allen County has been organizing the past 15 months with a focus on healthy eating and finding ways to encourage people to become more active. The group is now forming five work groups designed to look at issues more in-depth, according to Jerry Courtney, president of the Lima Family YMCA.

“If you look at obesity and its related costs historically in the United States, for the last 40 years we tried to educate, motivate and medicate people to health. It’s clear that’s not working,” Courtney said. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health about 10 years ago starting looking at national data and came to the realization that we have to make the healthy choice the easy choice in communities by looking at how policy, environment and community design affect health outcomes.”

The goal is for the work groups — education, local government, workplace, faith based and community organizations — to focus inward on their group first and then bring lessons for the broader community, Courtney said.

“This is open to anyone who wants to get involved, if you have a passion in one of those areas you can,” Courtney said. “I’ll use the faith-based as an example. That’s really going to focus on how congregations can internally first of all look at their own practices around food and food-related projects and events and then how do they engage and educate their parishioners on how to be more active and to eat better.”

The study released this week by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows that state adult obesity rates in 2011 ranged from 20.7 percent in Colorado to 34.9 percent in Mississippi. Ohio ranked 13th with a rate of 29.6 percent. If the levels continue to climb at current trajectories, 13 states would have rates above 60 percent by 2030 and 39 states would have rates above 50 percent.

“If you look at the projections for the future in Ohio if we reduce our body mass index of our citizens by five percent we would save $26.3 billion, we would have 342,000 fewer cases of diabetes, 293,000 fewer cases of coronary heart disease, 249,000 fewer hypertension cases, 144,000 fewer arthritis cases and 22,000 fewer obesity-related cancers,” Courtney said. “If you think about the future of our country and the future of Ohio, obesity-related illnesses are really an economic issue. We cannot continue to be on the same course and expect good things to happen.”