On Wednesday evening, I attended the launch of Live Well Greater Toledo at Owens Corning world headquarters.
With my personal interest in obesity related issues, I decided to attend and see how I could get involved. When I arrived, I saw many recognizable government, organization and community leaders, and quite a few people that I know personally from the YMCA of Greater Toledo, the United Way, ProMedica and Cedar Creek Church.
It was great to see such a diverse group of people joining together to address the issue of overweight and obesity in our community.
Todd Tibbits, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Toledo, gave introductory remarks and discussed how Live Well Greater Toledo began. There was also a message from Congressman Marcy Kaptur, stating her support for the initiative.
Then, the movie began. It focused on the epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States, and it followed several children who are struggling with weight issues.
There were interviews with various government officials and health experts. They cited health statistics on the trends related to overweight and obesity, such as how the rate of childhood obesity has tripled in the last three decades. There was a discussion of some of the possible factors that are contributing to this dramatic increase in overweight and obesity in our nation’s children.
It was very thought provoking and at times disturbing to hear the statistics.
This generation may be the first to have a lower life expectancy than their parents. If this trend continues, they will have a lower quality of living and suffer from disabilities created by chronic health conditions due to the effects of overweight and obesity, increasing healthcare costs, lowering productivity in the workforce, and possibly even impacting our national security.
After the movie, there was a panel discussion, moderated by Doni Miller, of the Neighborhood Health Association. Members of the audience directed questions to the panel of experts, which included Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken; Dr. Mark Watkins, a pediatric endocrinologist with ProMedica; Dr. Romulus Durant, the assistant superintendant of Toledo Public Schools; and Sarah Bucher, the director of healthy living for the YMCA and JCC of Greater Toledo and the Live Well coach.
The panel answered questions and highlighted some of the efforts that have been undertaken so far.
One example is how there are "food deserts" in some areas of Toledo, where access to fresh fruits and vegetables is minimal, and the selection that is available is often of poor quality and overpriced.
Job and Family Services in Lucas County offers a farmer’s market where they accept the EBT card, an effort to expand access to fresh fruits and vegetables to the people they serve and to those in the surrounding neighborhoods. Commissioner Gerken told the story of a 4th grader in Toledo who had never seen a fresh banana.
Once access to fresh fruits and vegetables is improved, it is important to also make sure people know what to do with them. Many people today don’t really know how to cook, “they know how to microwave,” according to one panel member.
Having cooking demonstrations and passing out recipes could be helpful in making sure people try a variety of fruits and vegetables and know how to prepare them in ways that are appealing. The panel discussed making small changes in your lifestyle to have long term results -- improvements to school lunches and physical education classes, the “walking schoolbus” which provide a safe way for groups of children to walk to school with adult volunteers, workplace wellness programs, the availability of healthy food choices in public venues, and sidewalk projects in road expansions.
The Live Well Greater Toledo initiative is not simply focusing on childhood obesity, but on the overall issue of overweight and obesity for all residents in our communities. It is not about trying to create a short term program. Its efforts are directed at changing policies and systems to create “sustainable, permanent change,” according to Mr. Tibbits.
Live Well Greater Toledo includes the collaboration of various community leaders and organizations. Its mission is “working together to measurably improve the health and well-being of our community through policies, systems and environmental change that support improved nutrition and physical activity.” Organizers are forming action teams to come up with ways to achieve their four overarching goals:
1. Increase access to fruits and vegetables.
2. Enhance infrastructure and traffic safety in areas where people walk and/or bike.
3. Increase availability of healthier food and beverage choices in public venues.
4. Increase access to physical activity.
The program has the support of community and organizational leaders. Now, organizers need you –- members of the community who have an interest in this issue, who are willing to get involved, speak out, take action, and make a difference.
If you would like to get involved, join a Live Well Action Team now. Go to the Web site: www.livewelltoledo.org, click on “contact us,” and sign up for one or more of the action teams that you are most interested in.
Edward Everett Hale once said, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” What will you do?
Jennifer Wagner is a Perrysburg High School graduate and current Perrysburg resident, who has an interest in health, nutrition, fitness and exercise-related topics after losing more than 120 lbs. through Weight Watchers and exercise. She won first prize in the national Weight Watchers Inspiring Stories Contest and is being featured in the July issue of More Magazine. She was recently hired as a leader for Weight Watchers International.