The health of residents in Kansas and Missouri “is going downhill” read the headline in the Sunday, January 4, 2015, Kansas City Star. Many of the findings, taken from the United Health Foundation, are based on simple factors, such as smoking, vaccinations, exercise and good eating habits. This is nothing new, but there is more. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every state in the country has a prevalence of obesity greater than 20 percent: 36 states have a rate greater than 25 percent and 12 states — including Missouri — are listed at more than 30 percent.
Unfortunately, Lee’s Summit, Missouri, is not immune and our children need a “vaccine.” Within our community, all private and public fitness/nutrition providers need to ramp up their programs and help our citizens develop the skills and tools necessary to change their lifestyle habits and assist them with improving their health. Likewise, our businesses and families need to assume responsibility for their employees, family members and themselves. Good community wellness and health makes “cents” and sense.
Lee’s Summit Parks and Recreation (LSPR) has been serving Lee’s Summit since 1968 and, at all levels, is committed to continue having a strong presence in our community’s fitness and wellness solution. We provide 26 neighborhood parks, three community centers, more than 73 miles of walking trails and a family waterpark, along with other programs and special events for the well-being of our community. Our population has increased from 28,000 in 1980 to approximately 95,000 today and is projected to be more than 116,000 by 2020. Over the years, this growth has presented many challenges, and we anticipate more throughout the next decade, but the current health of our community and nation is one of the most significant challenges facing us.
Obesity brings with it many health concerns — high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer and diabetes — all of which reduce the quality of life for the individual and, oftentimes, the family. Currently, at the national level, an estimated 16 percent of children between the ages of six and 18 are considered obese or overweight. This is up from 5.7 percent in 1980. In the state of Missouri, a recent assessment of 20,000 fifth and ninth graders found that 40 percent were overweight or at risk of being overweight. Research indicates that 80 percent of overweight adolescents will go on to become obese adults, so the future health for these children is in serious jeopardy. Causes of these conditions include a lack of physical activity, poor dietary habits and an inability to implement positive lifestyle choices (behaviors). As children grow up in these environments, they develop similar lifestyles and make similar lifestyle choices, thus continuing the cycle of obesity.
While some communities are addressing these issues through education, LSPR knows this is only part of the solution. Education has to be converted to behavior changes. In Lee’s Summit, we have taken what we think are the best practices for health and wellness and merged them with a program called RevUp.
Because health and wellness go far beyond the physical factors that influence sickness and disease, LSPR focuses on the implementation of effective programs that target the socioeconomic, psychological and emotional aspects of health. Through the RevUp Community Wellness Program, LSPR uses specific action to improve physical, social, economic and psychological components of wellness. Community members can take part in a 12-week, all inclusive, lifestyle change program that provides them with the skills and knowledge necessary to develop sustainable healthy habits. The program includes the following:
- Health risk assessments that raise awareness of potential underlying lifestyle causes of disease that may exist
- Small-group personal training
- A nutrition-change program focusing on specific real-world knowledge for improving dietary habits
- At least six points of contact each week with participants to improve social wellness and accountability
Participants are assigned a personal trainer and coach to provide individual care and support. Sponsorships from local hospitals help reduce the cost of participation as well as increase our citizen’s ability to access these programs. More than 800 citizens have participated in the program as individuals and couples, as well as employees of private, nonprofit businesses and nonprofit organizations. I encourage each of you not to be one of the negative statistics. “Move More, Eat Less,” “Use It or Lose It,” and “Start Now!”
J. Thomas Lovell, Jr., CPRP, is the Administrator of Parks and Recreation at Lee’s Summit Parks and Recreation.
Did You Know…?
Of the adults in the United States…
- More than 66 percent are obese or overweight
- 55 percent do not get enough physical activity
- 26 percent are completely inactive
- Only 25 percent eat recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables
- 33 percent will have diabetes by 2050 and 75 percent of these cases will develop cardiovascular disease
- Annual health care costs are $6,600 more for people with diabetes than for those without
- Medical costs for obese adults is 77 percent higher than for a healthy adult
Source: Anderson, D., Stay Well Health Management, 2008