Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released 2015 state-specific numbers on adult obesity prevalence using self-reported information from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). While the report shares data reflecting a bleak outlook for Kentucky, there are many dedicated organizations and programs that have made encouraging improvements. It’s important that we focus on the amazing work happening across the commonwealth and the high-impact opportunities that Kentucky is actively making progress towards on a state-level:
- Over 14,450 children across the state have been impacted by the Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative. Through this intensive training (beginning its third cohort in 2016), child care centers adopt new policies and implement classroom changes that promote 5-2-1-0 healthy behaviors for all children.
- Nearly 422,000 students are participating in Farm to School throughout Kentucky. This program brings fresh produce from Kentucky farmers to schools and provides opportunities for students to learn about nutrition, agriculture, and the importance of supporting the local food system.
- More than 1,000 schools serving nearly 550,000 students across the state have joined the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program, creating healthier school environments for children to thrive.
- There are nearly 300 statewide groups and coalitions representing all 120 counties that are working to improve the health of Kentuckians.
- Kentucky has 47 bike/pedestrian plans. By working with communities to adopt a plan, we are addressing the walkability of places by ensuring that they are eligible for funding opportunities to make them safer and more inviting places to be physically active.
- There are 92 organizations, agencies, and businesses that have pledged their support for Step It Up, Kentucky! This collective endorsement demonstrates that walkability and active transportation are a priority for Kentucky.
- Of Kentucky’s 171 farmers markets –including 12 Fresh Stop Markets – 51 accept SNAP, 94 accept WIC, and 63 accept Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program benefits. Over 24 markets participate in the Double Dollars program, and many others are piloting Veggie Rx, Summer Meal Service Program, and partnerships with Food Banks.
- Better Bites healthy menu labeling program is currently operated in all 17 Kentucky State Park Resorts, three state-operated worksite cafeterias, four public swimming pools, and several after-school programs throughout Lexington and Owensboro.
What you can do
- Shift the conversation. We are faced with a problem that is more complex than a few extra pounds on the scale. Physical activity has been engineered out of our lives. Our towns have been overrun with convenient, cheap junk food which leads to undernourished families with high-caloric foods. By addressing the places where people live, work, and play, and having thoughtful engaging conversations with those directly impacted, we can empower our communities to tackle these issues.
- Be a role model. Ask your family to go for a walk after dinner, suggest a healthy potluck for church, or provide water for your kids at sports practice instead of sugary sports drinks. Small changes can make a big difference, and it starts with each of us.
- Join in. Attend a meeting, participate in a training, or promote a community event. These groups rely on the power of people to advance their cause. Community members are the key to co-creating successful solutions, and in fact they should be leading the process. Rather than doing something for the community, think about doing something with the community.
Doing true community-based public health work is frustrating at times, because it takes longer – ten years (or more!), not two. Our state efforts that focus on policy, systems, and environmental changes are meant to impact population health and compliment the creative solutions we see at the local level. Thanks to everyone for your unwavering commitment to building a stronger, healthier future for all Kentucky families!