LiveWell Northwest Colorado: Becoming the healthiest county in the state

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— We live in one of the leanest counties in the leanest state in the U.S. What does that mean? In the U.S., 68 percent of adults are overweight or obese. The leanest state in the nation, Colorado, has 58 percent of adults who are overweight or obese. In Routt County, 51 percent of our adults are considered overweight or obese.

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Barb Parnell

LiveWell Northwest Colorado

This weekly column about health issues publishes on Mondays in the Steamboat Today. Read more columns here.

Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0

  • ■ 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables
  • ■ 2 or fewer hours of recreational screen time
  • ■ 1 or more hours of physical activity
  • ■ 0 sugary drinks
  • Online: www.letsgo.org
  • Source: LiveWell Northwest Colorado

Now the sad news: One out of every three children in the U.S. are overweight or obese. In Colorado, our children rank 23rd “leanest” in the U.S. with nearly 25 percent of our youths being overweight or obese. In Routt County, the percentage of students (kindergarten through 12th grade) who are obese or overweight has increased from 16.4 to 19.4 percent from 2009 to 2012.

LiveWell Northwest Colorado is a nonprofit that is funding community investments to reduce and prevent obesity in Colorado. Interestingly, the organization’s research found that many Coloradans have a difficult time accurately identifying obesity, which often is associated with images of the morbidly obese as seen on TV shows like “The Biggest Loser.” That is not the case, as overweight children and adults who are at risk for health issues look like those you see every day in the community.

LiveWell Northwest Colorado is a group of dedicated community members who are working strategically to create an environment in Routt County where healthy eating and recreational choices are available to everyone.

During the past three years, we have worked with Hayden and Soroco school districts to secure grant funding for new playgrounds at the elementary and secondary schools; worked with Oak Creek to secure grant funding to create a new pump track park, to develop the first town trails, to renovate Decker Park, to begin a youth summer activity program and to develop a recreation master plan; funded Yampa River Core Trail signage in Steamboat Springs; invested heavily in helping early childhood programs and kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers to increase physical activity during the school day because we know that exercise improves academic performance; introduced “Go, Slow, Whoa” to LIFT-UP as well as Women, Infants and Children clients; implemented healthy eating campaigns to educate preschool and elementary students; and promoted a 5-2-1-0 community health campaign.

The issue of obesity no longer is about vanity or labeling; it is about understanding your risk and then taking steps to prevent the short- and long-term health consequences. It’s time to find out if your weight might be affecting your health. Body Mass Index is the most common medically accepted way to determine whether a person is overweight or obese. BMI is an estimate of body fat, and it’s a good gauge of your risk for diseases that occur with more body fat.

LiveWell’s website offers three easy tools to help you discover your weight category, and learn about how your lifestyle choices stack up. Take the 360 degree gut check at www.livewellcolorado.org and become aware of the BMI of you and your family members.

We have a variety of action options to improve your health:

• Join us in the October 5-2-1-0 Routt County community health challenge by eating five or more servings of fruits and veggies each day, having no more than two hours per day of recreational screen time, getting at least 30 minutes of exercise for adults and one hour for youths, and drinking zero sugar-sweetened beverages.

• Visit LiveWell’s Facebook page for more healthy eating and active living ideas. Make one small change within your sphere of influence — for example, bring fruit to your next work or book club event, add one more fruit or veggie serving each day or walk during your lunch break.

• Participate in Weigh and Win, a free program that incorporates healthy eating and active living into your daily routine. For those who are at an unhealthy BMI, there is an opportunity to get paid to lose weight. Weigh and Win is available at Yampa Valley Medical Center and the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association during October.

It is time to create a culture shift where the healthy choice is the easy choice in our community. Be part of the solution; help us make Routt County the healthiest county in the state.

For more information, email LiveWell Northwest Colorado Community Coordinator Barb Parnell, Ph.D., at livewellbparnell@gmail.com.

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