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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Pima County Health Department promotes better eating and exercising habits

Kevin+Brost+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AStudent+Jeff+Hurley+digs+into+a+freshly+cut+salad+at+the+University+of+Arizona+on+September+27%2C+2011.
Kevin Brost
Kevin Brost / Arizona Daily Wildcat Student Jeff Hurley digs into a freshly cut salad at the University of Arizona on September 27, 2011.

Eating healthy is not something students always think about doing. To combat this, the Pima County Health Department, with help from the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, continues to promote healthy choices to help prevent obesity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funded the Communities Putting Prevention to Work program grant as a two-year effort, said Don Gates, the program coordinator at the Pima County Health Department. Last year, the Pima County Health Department received $15.75 million to promote better exercise and nutrition, according to a press release.

“It’s a very significant effort to create policy or systems changes that drive healthier behavior,” Gates said.

The campaign’s main focus is to try to convince elementary and high schools to change their policies so that students can be better educated about nutrition, he said. The media campaign and the website are small parts of this effort.

Healthy eating promotion in schools is more for children under 18, Gates said. About 70 UA students have identified themselves as wellness contacts in leading the effort among the student population.

A UA group with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences “takes the lead” on the school contacts, he said. In addition, the YMCA is responsible for the worksite wellness efforts and is also in contact with UA staffers to promote healthy options in vending machines and menus in the Student Union Memorial Center.

Arizona had an obesity prevalence of 24.3 percent in 2010, according to the CDC. They also report 20.2 percent of Pima County adults were physically inactive in 2008. At a national level, 33.8 adults in the U.S. are obese and 17 percent of children or adolescents are obese, according to the CDC.

“I eat a lot of meat and fruit and a lot of veggies if I can, but it’s kind of hard on campus,” said Lauren Scheller, a sophomore studying studio art and theater arts. “Overall, if I don’t have to eat junk food, I won’t.”

Abigail Oberg, an art education junior, said she thinks obesity is prevalent, but not necessarily on the UA campus. She said most college students eat cheap food that isn’t always healthy, but she and her close friends are healthy eaters.

“I don’t eat meat or anything,” Oberg said. “I’m pretty into healthy stuff.”

Certain restaurants in the student union are also making efforts to offer healthier options to the campus community.

Cellar Bistro has made an effort to provide these options by incorporating sustainable meats and more fresh vegetables into its menu, according to Jon Levengood, the retail manager for dining services of the Arizona Student Unions. Sabor, a new Mexican restaurant in the student union, “tries to get away” from fried tacos and offers fresh corn tortillas, he said.

“A lot of students request healthier options, and there is a pretty educated consumer base these days,” Levengood said.

In addition, he added that wheat bread is offered at On Deck Deli and Fuel, the new restaurant in the Student Recreation Center, and that Three Cheeses and a Noodle expanded its line of salad offerings.

The Pima County Health Department sponsored supplemental nutrition and worked on adding salad bars in lunch lines at schools. It also works with the community food bank to increase the number of school and community gardens, Gates said.

“So, not just increasing the amount of fresh food that’s grown locally, but also in providing a venue for gardeners to sell or distribute their surplus produce,” he said.

Another part of the campaign is to create more “walkable spaces,” Gates said.

“A lot of people don’t make the connection between bus riding and health, but the fact that if you have to walk to the bus stop and from the bus stop to work or to your school … you’re getting that extra 20 to 30 minutes of exercise a day,” he said.

Scheller said she exercises every day or every other day by running with friends or playing racquetball. She and Oberg said they think the UA could benefit from a healthy eating campaign such as the one being implemented in schools for children, they said.

Though Scheller said she doesn’t think the UA population is obese, there is a lot of junk food available on campus.

The campaign is meant to draw attention to this issue. It presents some of the barriers to a healthy lifestyle such as the scarcity of healthy foods in certain neighborhoods and the lack of safe places to exercise, Gates said. The website provides ways for people to make small changes in their lives for better health.

Organizations like worksites or schools will also be provided with information on resources they can use to help make their facilities healthier. For example, this includes recipes, exercise guidelines and information on how to set up a worksite wellness program, Gates said. About 70,000 Pima County employees are taking part in the goal to implement more worksite wellness programs in terms of nutrition and activity groups.

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