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It Makes a Village

Posted by bmagnus On October - 14 - 2009

Last year Albert Lea, MN began a project in healthy eating, healthy living, and community building called the “Vitality Project“. The plan included building sidewalks and bike trails, changes in restaurant menus and supermarket specials, encouraging kids to walk to school in large supervised groups and employers setting aside exercise breaks. And the results: in addition to a greater sense of community, “Organizers say the first-of-its kind experiment added an average 3.1 years to the longevity of about 2,300 residents who calculated their lifespans by answering 36 lifestyle questions.”

What could you do with 3.1 extra years?

Unfortunately, most of us don’t live in Albert Lea. And in the rest of the country, obesity — not just being overweight, but being obese — is rising at an alarming rate. Only one state, Colorado, has an obesity rate of less than 20%. Six states have an obesity rate over 30%! Since it has been shown that obese people have higher medical costs than lighter people, it’s important to get this under control not only from a health standpoint, but also from an economic standpoint. Sadly, obesity impacts some minorities disproportionately. Theories about why range from activity patterns to cultural differences to the environments in which these people are likely to live. Even though no state can report a reduction in obesity levels right now, many are taking steps to try and curb the epidemic, such as putting healthier food in schools. Unfortunately, school may be too late to start preventing obesity: even 20% of our preschoolers are obese.

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