Taking the fitness fight to the moon

Taking the fitness fight to the moon

A Community initiative targeting obesity

Polk County health officials are targeting obesity – and along with it diabetes, heart diseases and other obesity-related health problems – as part of a Tampa Bay community-wide health initiative. Called ONE BAY: Healthy Communities, the initiative includes an eight-county region stretching from Pinellas to Polk and Sarasota to Citrus.

“We are not just focusing on what a person’s weight is,” says Dr. Daniel Haight, director of the Polk County Health Department. “It’s one way of targeting lots of things.”

ONE BAY: Healthy Communities, a project of the Tampa Bay Partnership, recently completed a walking campaign that logged well over 238,857 miles, the distance to the moon. Nearly 500 of the some 6,000 who participated were from Polk, with large delegations from the Polk County School Board, Lakeland Regional Medical Center, and the Polk County Health Department.

“We are just trying to build awareness,” says Lynda Leedy, ONE BAY: Healthy Community’s project manager. Nearly 37 percent of the Tampa Bay population was overweight in 2007, according to the group’s Healthy Communities report issued last year. In Polk, the rate was 32.6 percent. To be classified as overweight, an individual must have a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 20 and 30.

A growing number of Tampa Bay individuals were classified obese – with the rate climbing from 21.8 percent in 2002 to 25.4 percent in 2007. The figures were slightly below the national averages of 21.9 percent and 26.3 percent nationally, the report shows. The obese classification is for BMI’s 30 and up; 40 and up is considered extremely obese.

Dr. Haight observes that we can address obesity with more sidewalks, making playgrounds more accessible and encourage bike riding. Employers and schools also can encourage healthy weight.

Weight is a good indicator of overall health. “Obesity increases the risk of many diseases and health conditions including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, hypertension, stroke, liver and gallbladder disease, respiratory problems and osteoarthritis,” the report states.

The initiative has been under way since 2010, researching data to get a clearer picture of how the region stacks up health wise. The research included 60 indicators from five categories: Economy/Demographics, Health Outcomes, Health-Related Behavior, Health Systems and Access, and Environmental Health.It relied on government statistics. In general, the region earns an average rating. However, it logs higher than average ratings for diabetes, lung cancer and suicide, the report shows. Stroke mortality is lower than average, along with the death rate for pneumonia and the flu, indicates the report. Here are some of the statistics found by the research:

Diabetes Ratings

Data from 2007 shows 8 percent in the region have at some point been diagnosed with diabetes, compared with 5.7 percent nationally. That rate was highest in Hernando at 9 percent and second highest in Polk, with 8.7 percent. Some 57 million Americans are pre-diabetic, the report notes.

Lung Cancer Ratings

The lung cancer death rate was 55.7 for every 100,00 in Tampa Bay for 2006, compared with 51.5 nationally and 55.6 in Polk, the records show. Smoking, measured by the percent who have smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their life and who smoke at least some days, is higher than average in Tampa Bay at 21.6 percent but slightly lower in Polk at 19 percent. The national average is 19.8 percent.

Suicide Ratings

The Tampa Bay suicide rate for 2006 was 14.9 deaths per 100,000 compared with 10.8 nationally and 10.9 in Polk, the report shows.

ONE BAY: Healthy Communities moonwalk was its first community outreach event to combat the findings of this research. It resulted in lots of “heartwarming” feedback about how they changed participant’s lives, Leedy says.

Motivating folks to walk to the moon with a competitive effort is especially helpful to the many smaller companies who can’t hire a “wellness person,” she adds. Results were tracked at the www.healthytampabay.com website.

CREDITS

story by CHERYL ROGERS