In wake of CDC report, how can you make your towns healthier?

Articles
November 19, 2008

In wake of CDC report, how can you make your towns healthier?

People choose where to live for many reasons—employment, climate, proximity to family and friends, recreation and more. The annual measure by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the nation’s healthiest and unhealthiest cities provides yet one more reason for choice. The agency’s latest report compares cities on two ends of the health spectrum. On one side, Burlington, Vermont has a nation-topping 92% of residents who say their health is good or great. On the other side, Huntington, WVA, is filled with obese adults, nearly half of them to be precise, higher than any other metro area.

People choose where to live for many reasons—employment, climate, proximity to family and friends, recreation and more. The annual measure by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the nation’s healthiest and unhealthiest cities provides yet one more reason for choice.

The agency’s latest report compares cities on two ends of the health spectrum.  On one side, Burlington, Vermont has a nation-topping 92% of residents who say their health is good or great. On the other side, Huntington, WVA, is filled with obese adults, nearly half of them to be precise, higher than any other metro area.

According to an Associated Press report, Burlington is younger than Huntington (37 vs. 40), in better financial shape (8% at the federal poverty level vs. 19%), and better educated (40% have a college degree or higher vs. 15%).

Some other health perks of the ski destination: corporate employers with wellness programs, sound dietary choices throughout the town, and a health-driven supermarket.

By contrast, the Appalachian blue-collar town has withstood disasters. It is home to Marshall University, which tragically lost its football team in a plane crash. It lost a local physician named Paul Ambrose in one of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And while it was a manufacturing hub decades back, industry has moved away and left bad dietary habits (calorie-dense foods that were burned off at work) behind. Therefore, the high obesity rates.

In Huntington, 31% of people don’t exercise, 22% have heart disease and 13% have diabetes, reported AP. And nearly half the senior population has lost all their natural teeth. Fast food has become a staple there, with many residents convinced they can’t afford to buy healthier foods, Keri Kennedy, manager of the state health department’s Office of Healthy Lifestyles told the wire service.

Retailers might look closely at where their towns are on the health continuum, and align where appropriate with local health officials, fitness advocates and opinion makers to help move their populations into a healthier tier. Nutrition education programs, charity runs and weight loss contests could be fine places to start. If some customers are stubborn and stick to unhealthy foods their parents and grandparents ate, they still ought to appreciate efforts that help them improve the length and quality of their lives.