Shaping Kentucky’s Future: A Community Guide to Reducing Obesity

In the New Year, many individuals commit to turning over a new leaf. You’ll hear stories of resolutions to begin healthy habits this year almost anywhere. Ads for gym memberships and healthy foods are all over the newspaper ads and radio stations. We become obsessed with trying to incorporate healthy living into our daily routines. Kentucky’s health data is staggering: over 66% of adults are overweight and more than 31% are obese. Our state also ranks 41 out of the 50 states for diabetes prevalence. Even more shocking is the data on adolescents and children. Of the adolescents aged 9-12 in Kentucky, more than 15% are overweight and almost 18% are obese. Over children ages 2-5 16%  are overweight, and almost 18% are obese. That means that one out of every three kids in our state is struggling with not only weight issues, but most likely other health problems as well such as diabetes or asthma. The future of our state’s success, socially and economically, depends on the health of Kentucky families.

It’s a little scary when you think about it. But there is some good news–many of Kentucky’s residents are working together to address health needs of communities in an effort to take on the growing obesity problem. Across the state, community leaders, partners, and members are collaborating to implement local wellness initiatives. The Partnership for a Fit Kentucky and Shaping Kentucky’s Future Collaborative featured some of these local programs and incorporated tools for adopting similar change in recently released report: “Shaping Kentucky’s Future: A Community Guide to Reducing Obesity- Local Success Stories.”

The initiatives described in the report highlight a variety of programs for kids and adults that increase opportunities for exercise and access to healthy and local foods, as well as instill an appreciation for wellness in the community. In addition to highlighting success stories around the state, the report emphasizes that collaboration is vital for effective change to occur. As a Public Health student, I can tell you first-hand that collaboration is the main ingredient for any initiative or program to be successful. So often, groups and organizations that aspire to do good things for the community work in “silos,” meaning that they rarely reach out to expand their network of partners. Although it may seem like the easiest method to achieve their goals, it is usually not the most effective in the long run. Diversity among stakeholders ensures that all perspectives contribute to the end result. As Henry Ford once said “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

The success stories in the Shaping Kentucky’s Future report are informative, as well as inspiring, but my favorite part is the challenge presented to the reader: let the tools provided inspire you to start something similar in your own community. Each featured story includes advice and helpful tips for implementing similar programs in any community. Considering the poor outlook of our state’s health and the implications of an overweight and obese population, let’s come together and find ways to encourage healthy lifestyles in every community. “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

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