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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County Weighs In:
70% Are Overweight  According to CDC Stats

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – According to a 1985-2010 study done by the CDC, Florida’s overweight and obesity rates are increasing alarmingly, and Columbia County is no exception.

Mark LanderMark Lander, Administrator for the Florida Department of Health in Columbia County, and chair of the Community Health Advisory Panel (CHAP) commented:

As health care professionals and community leaders to ignore obesity issues we fail to adequately serve our community. Obesity and obesity-related health issues such as diabetes, hypertension and high blood pressure are not just health care provider problems, but must be addressed by the entire community.

By highlighting obesity and possible cures at the local level in a forum such as this we have made that first step in community involvement. We plan to continue with this forum-type information-sharing, arming our residents with tools to improve community health.

The high level of speakers and community participation demonstrate that we have the local resources and the community interest to make a difference in our fight against obesity.

At the first-ever Healthiest Weight Florida (HWF) Forum held at Florida Gateway College in Lake City in November, Catherine Howard, Ph.D., coordinator of the state’s  Healthiest Weight Florida program, presented some alarming statistics about Florida’s obesity epidemic and talked about ways to turn the tide.

According to the statistics, ignoring obesity will be costly. Columbia County has a greater than 70% combined overweight and obesity population and overweight/obesity rates in Columbia County schools are similar.

Dr. Howard said, “At the current rate if we do nothing, by 2030 six out of every ten children will be obese when they graduate from high school and this generation can expect to have a shorter life span than their parents.” Projected costs associated with obesity-related health problems are estimated at $34 billion.

Dr. Howard claims that by using evidence-based strategies to improve nutrition and increase physical activity in our schools, neighborhoods, and work places, Florida could significantly reduce obesity-related diseases and health spending.  The goal of HWF is to reduce the overweight/obesity rate by 5% by 2017.

HWF’s  proposed strategies include:

• Increasing physical activity by reducing screen time; partnering with Dept. of Environmental Protection to promote the ParkFit program; and promoting physical activity in early childcare, schools and afterschool settings.

• Improving nutrition by encouraging that all foods and beverages served and sold in schools meet or exceed the most recent dietary guidelines for Americans; promoting breastfeeding practices; increasing access to high-quality affordable foods in communities, including increasing SNAP EBT acceptance at farmers markets.

• Improving built-environment to include “walking buses” to and from school; providing technical assistance to counties wishing to pass complete streets policies; promoting joint/shared use agreements allowing school running tracks to be used by the public after hours.

At the conclusion of her presentation, Dr. Howard turned the podium over to several local health and exercise professionals.

Dr. Brooke Mobley, D.O., a member of DaVita Kidney Specialists of North Florida explained the ways she works with her patients to manage their weight and health, including using TV commercial time to do leg lifts while seated.  Dr. Mobley said, “One of my older patients lost 15 lbs in 30 days doing just this one thing on a regular basis.”  Dr. Mobley also encouraged a low sodium diet, portion control, and making lunch the biggest meal of the day.

Gwin encouraged dividing the dinner plate in half mentally, with one half containing fruits and vegetables, and the other two quarters with protein and grains. 

Katherine Gwin, Registered Dietician for Lake City Medical Center spoke about ChooseMyPlate.gov, a website with helpful resources for healthy eating and its SuperTracker feature, which aids in managing weight loss programs.  Ms. Gwin spoke of the importance of prevention and said, “Just because you’re born with certain genetics doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it.”

Marqus Fisher, Rehab Director of Physical Therapy at Shands Lakeshore Regional Medical Center stressed the importance of getting 150 minutes of physical exercise a week in order to increase energy levels, cardiovascular strength, flexibility, “feel-good” endorphin levels, pain relief and improved sleep. Fisher stated the importance of doing at least two of the three types of exercise: cardiovascular, resistance training and stretching, but stated, “the best exercise for you is the one you will do.” 

After a series of questions and answers, Dr. Howard closed the forum by stating that a healthy lifestyle is really pretty simple: “1) Exercise is medicine.  2) Eat your colors, shop on the outside of the supermarket and avoid processed foods. And, 3) Small steps equal big rewards. Just 5-8% weight loss can make a big difference.”

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