Plans Discussed to Overcome Prowers County Obesity

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What is the best way to involve Prowers County residents, to help reduce obesity in general, but specifically among students and younger children?  That became the general topic discussed by several dozen members of the community this past Thursday, June 5, at a meeting hosted by LiveWell Prowers County, members of the Prowers County Health Alliance and facilitated by representatives from Civic Canopy out of Denver.

Emily Neischburg of LiveWell Prowers County recapped statewide health statistics, focusing on the southeast and northeast regions of Colorado, but of which show a definite need for improvement.  “The BMI, Body Mass Index, of these residents is around 30, about the highest in the entire state,” she explained, adding that this was a basic indicator of being obese or overweight.  He also pointed out that both locations show that residents are lagging behind the rest of the state in the amount of time spent on quality physical activities.  “We are the second highest region in the state for childhood obesity,” she told the gathering.  Neischburg did have some good news in that a slight improvement has been noted, principally from community awareness and participation in healthy eating projects and increased avenues for exercise, but it was the first step on a longer road.

Drew O’Conner from Civic Canopy, a group that helps study and facilitate community trends, described how a process known as collective impact would serve to integrate community groups in the task of generating awareness of obesity and develop a means by which it can be reduced.  Part of the process, he explained, would be a series of community wide meetings held through the summer.  A summary and an outline for a plan for a project would develop from a series of community meetings through the fall and winter.  Community engagement meetings are planned for July 9-11.

Wiley School Principal, Michelle Wallace, spoke about several successful programs that have developed over the past three years for Wiley students, which she attributed in part, to some health-oriented programs adopted by the district.  “We’ve noticed improvements because of three changes we’ve made,” explained, “There’s been a buy-in by staff role models, we’ve revamped our physical education program and there’s been more involvement on a family level.”  Wallace said Wiley has joined with other local schools for an improved salad and fresh fruit bar, featuring non-canned foods, the school chef is working to offer more variations on meals through training at a culinary boot camp and absenteeism has been reduced.  “We’ve noticed that two or three years ago, a student would be absent for seven days out of a school year and this past year, it’s been reduced to just 1 ½ days,” she stated.

The audience suggested areas for high level results, combining a nutritious diet and exercise that could be incorporated into a strategy for the remainder of the year.  They included parental buy-in to better meals and more exercise, following the 5-2-1-0 program initiated locally by LiveWell, student access to healthier foods, an information campaign for the community, continuing the ‘Cooking Matters’ program at Project HOPE and programs to reach into the local Hispanic community, at least 40% of Lamar’s population base.

By Russ Baldwin


Filed Under: BusinesscommunityCountyEconomyEducationFeaturedGranadaHealthHollyLamarProwers CountyRecreationSchoolWileyYouth


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