Yesterday we looked at what the small town of Albert Lea is doing to encourage healthier lifestyles and un-break hearts and heart disease. I agree with those of you who are local and suggested “our town” of Coral Springs getting involved in the AARP/Blue Zone Vitality Project. One thing I have learned, through the years, is not to simply make suggestions, but to offer solutions. We need to put our heads together to come up with some solutions to offer our local government officials, or else we are just creating more work for people who already have full plates. (No pun intended)
Here are a few suggestions of ideas that are already working in other parts of the country and the world.
REQUIRE GRAPHIC WARNINGS ON CIGARETTE PACKAGING. It’s gotten pretty easy to disregard the “smoking is hazardous to your health,” warning. In Brazil the warnings are far more graphic. In fact they have a law that requires pictures of diseased hearts, chests sawed open for autopsy or gangrenous limbs on every label. Let’s face it, they are much harder to ignore! In Canada, these type of images must cover at least half of the wrapping on a box of cigarettes. In 2008, the year the law went into effect, 38% of smokers who tried quitting said these images were the reason! In the Philippines they took a different approach to the cigarette problem. Smokers wanting to quit deposited the money they would have spent on cigarettes into an special bank account. At the end of 6 months, those who succeeded in quitting got their money back, while those that failed, did not. Sponsoring some sort of commitment contract to quit and then offering incentives is a great idea that is bound to work for many. I know that I watched an Oprah about “distracted drivers” and after seeing some pretty graphic tragedies, my cell phone use while driving plummeted. I also took her pledge to not text while driving and it’s working for me. Same idea.
WORK ON REDUCING SALT CONSUMPTION. The average American consumes at least twice the amount of recommended daily MAXIMUM of sodium, most of it from processed foods. New York City is leading a campaign to entice food manufacturers into reducing added sodium. This is a five year process, so consumers will barely notice the difference. This one initiative will clearly help reduce the number of heart attacks and strokes as well as bringing down the all important blood pressure numbers. Good job, NYC!
MAKE WHOLE GRAINS, FRUITS AND VEGGIES MORE ACCESSIBLE FOR THOSE WITH LOWER INCOMES. We all know how costly it can be to eat healthy meals. The underprivileged tend to have terribly unhealthy diets and often for economic reasons. This about this: $1 can but 100 calories worth of carrots or 1250 calories of cookies or chips. (This according to the Newsweek article). The Wholesome Wave Foundation has lead the way in 12 states, providing vouchers redeemable at farmers’ markets to people in the SNAP (food stamp) program. Purchases of fruits and veggies have doubled and even tripled according to Michel Nischan, the president and CEO of the program. As a wellness advocate it has always made me crazy that our government allows healthy foods to be so much more expensive than less healthy choices. Consider the difference in price between a bag of regular potato chips and the less fatty, less fattening baked version! Criminal!
INCREASE THE PERCENTAGE OF MONEY DESIGNATED TOWARDS SIDEWALKS AND BIKE LANES IN EVERY FEDERALLY FUNDED ROAD PROJECT. Currently, the government spends 1 percent of transportation dollars on these projects. Increasing the percentage would get more people walking and less people driving. This is a win-win situation. Increase health, decrease traffic!
NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND? HOW ABOUT INCORPORATING PHYSICAL EDUCATION INTO THAT PLAN? While we keep prepping our kids for standardized testing we keep falling behind in physical fitness. By now, 2010, everyone knows that regular exercise improves moods, concentration and academic achievement. As if that were enough knowledge to assure every student ample exercise, let’s throw in how much it would do to help reverse the growing trend toward type 2 diabetes and heart disease in CHILDREN AND TEENAGERS! To me, this seems like the simplest place to make changes IMMEDIATELY. I do know that our government had adopted some plans to get more physical in school, but I have to question what the follow through has been. Some of you, with children in public schools, or as educators, know more than me. I remember fighting this battle when my kids were in elementary school and had PE once a week! Thankfully, their PE teacher did encourage walking and gave the kids lots of incentives to walk instead of sit during the school week. I am also grateful to the teachers that allowed me to come into their classrooms and do some fun physical activities with their students and educating them on the importance of MOVING!
If anyone wants to learn more about the AARP/Blue Zone Vitality Project, pick up this week’s Newsweek. The next phase of the project is being developed by Ben Leedle, the CEO of Healthways. Healthways, by the way, is the same company that brings us the award winning SilverSneakers program, which I am always so proud to be a part of. They are in the forefront of preventive health and wellness programs.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could find ourselves growing more fit and healthy just because of the way we live? Encouraging these healthy changes might put me right out of a paycheck, but I’ll take that chance. In fact, I am pretty confident that regardless of how ideal our communities might someday be, there are still enough of us work-out-aholics, that will never give up our exercise. We are in it for much more than the calorie burn or the heart health. We know that regular exercise is the magic bullet that makes EVERYTHING better.
*No Biggest Loser tonight—pre-empted by the Olympics, to the best of my knowledge. I will be watching part 2 of the Westminster Dog Show instead. There is not one dog in that parade that I would throw out of my home! Just don’t tell Blaze, he thinks he is the only dog I have eyes for!