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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — When it comes to combating childhood obesity, teaching kids about proper nutrition and exercise is only one part of the equation.
If a child doesn't have access to fresh produce or safe areas to play, that can drastically hamper his or her ability to lead a healthy life, said Ron Gifford, chief executive officer of Jump IN For Healthy Kids.
It's exactly why the organization — aimed at reducing childhood obesity in Central Indiana by 12 percent by 2025 — launched the "Make the Leap" campaign Wednesday. The event brought together more than 100 business and community leaders from groups as varied as schools, child-care providers, youth organizations, employers and faith groups, who pledged to reduce obesity in children by whatever means necessary.
"What the event is going to show is there is a great commitment and enthusiasm for taking on this hard work," Gifford said. "We have great resources in this community already."
To Gifford, there's no silver bullet for making the area's children healthier. It's going to take different approaches for different neighborhoods, he said.
That could mean installing sidewalks to enable safer walking, making sure fresh produce — either in a corner store or at a mobile stand — is available or cleaning up parks, Gifford said.
Jump IN, which was established in 2014, estimates that 221,000 children in Central Indiana are at risk for diabetes, heart disease and cancer based on their physical state.
"Choosing to eat more fruits and vegetables is an easy choice to make," Gifford said. "What's hard about that is if you live in a neighborhood where you don't have access to those things.
"We'll have to deal with the resource question there. We'll have to figure out where those resources come from. Is it government programs, the private sector or the philanthropic sector? There are a lot of different strategies for all of those."
One way Jump IN is trying to disseminate its message is by targeting employers, who can develop wellness plans for their workers.
Brian Schroeder, administrative director of wellness, occupational health and volunteer services at Eskenazi Health, said because people spend most of their day at work, it makes perfect sense to educate them while they're there about leading healthier lives. They can then share that information with their children.
"What we're aiming to do is create programming that would fit within any business, whether it's small, medium or a large company," he said. "Activity, nutrition, stress management, relaxation, and financial management: any of those things we would consider to fall under the umbrella of wellness."
It also comes back to the old adage that children will eat whatever adults put in front of them, Schroeder said. Instead of opting for a doughnut for breakfast for mac and cheese for dinner, parents should teach children to reach for fresh fruit and vegetables.
Those behaviors can help establish lifelong habits, he said.
"We have to start early to make these changes," he said. Rick Whitten, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis, said children, especially those from underprivileged areas, aren't getting the nutrition or exercise they need. It's why he was one of the people to sign on for Jump IN's campaign.
Indiana is ranked as the ninth-fattest state in the country by The State of Obesity, a project for the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. According to the report, 31.8 percent of Hoosiers are obese.
Schroeder said Indiana's obesity rate is a health epidemic and Marion County, which ranks 89th of the state's 92 counties for health factors such as obesity and physical inactivity, can help turn the tide.
"It's a serious public health issue. Childhood obesity is an epidemic in this country, and we're in the thick of it right here in Indianapolis," he said.
Source: The Indianapolis Star, http://indy.st/1KMVflW
Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com
This is an AP-Indiana Exchange story offered by The Indianapolis Star.
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