Posts Tagged ‘physical activity’

Farm Bill Provides Public Health Intervention Options

April 1st, 2014

farmbillThe passage of the Farm Bill  (the  Agricultural Act of 2014)  includes some changes and reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps) and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.  In Arizona, SNAP benefits help put healthy food on the table for more than one million people each month, with more than half of the benefits going to children and teens.

The new Farm Bill promotes healthier options by requiring SNAP retailers to provide healthy choices.  When fully implemented, any store that accepts SNAP must offer at least seven foods in each of the USDA’s four categories of staple foods.  The law also provides grant programs to encourage people that receive SNAP benefits to buy more fruits and vegetables, provide funding for loan programs for healthy food retailers, and create opportunities for schools to add different kinds of vegetables as part of school menus.

In terms of education funding for SNAP… we’ll be able to promote physical activity in addition to nutrition education. This is great news because the combination of healthier foods and physical activity are powerful tools in fighting the obesity epidemic.  And it fits so well with our Winnable Battle to promote nutrition and physical activity to reduce obesity.  Many studies show there’s a link between obesity and low-income families, so adding nutritional criteria to SNAP is a significant improvement on the status quo and a positive springboard for improving health outcomes moving forward.

Obesity Drops Among Preschoolers

March 5th, 2014

The latest CDC obesity data published in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association found a significant decline in obesity among kids aged 2 to 5. Obesity prevalence for this age group declined by 43% in the last 8 years (from 14% in 2004 to 8% in 2012.  While the precise reasons for the decline in obesity aren’t clear, many child care centers have started to improve their nutrition and physical activity standards over the past few years (like our (EMPOWER Program).  In addition, CDCs data shows a decrease in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among kids in recent years. Another possible factor might be the improvement in breastfeeding rates- which helps stave off obesity. 


USDA Announces New School Nutrition Guidelines

February 28th, 2014

The USDA announced proposed new guidelines for school wellness policies as part of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 this week.  The new policies set goals in nutrition, physical activity, and other school-based activities promoting student wellness. Additionally, the school wellness policies include a guideline on food marketing in schools, setting a standard that if an item cannot be sold or served in schools, it cannot be marketed to kids in schools.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture also launched a new School Nutrition Environment and Wellness Resources website, which includes sample wellness policy language for school districts and a dedicated page of resources for food marketing practices on the school campus.

New Prevention Resources

February 6th, 2014

CDC’s 2013 Prevention Status Reports have just been released publicly on CDC’s website.  You’ll find reports specific to Arizona on topics like nutrition, physical activity, teen pregnancy, tobacco use, HIV, heart disease, motor vehicle crashes, and prescription drug abuse.  Reports include a few data indicators of how we compare to the U.S., as well as implementation of key policies related to the topics. The website has a Quick Start Guide, which gives tips and tools for using the reports.  The idea is to build an inventory of evidence-based public health practices and improve health outcomes. 

For Return on Investment information you can check out a new report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation  which has findings about increases in local public health spending associated with decreases in infant deaths, and deaths from cardiovascular disease.  Low-income communities experienced the greatest health and economic gains with increases in local public health spending. 

Also, the National Council on Aging recently put together a brief compiling the results from the national Chronic Disease Self-Management Program study.  The results included an impressive 21% improvement in depression, 13% improvement in number of days per week being moderately active, 12% improvement in medication compliance, and a $714 per person saving in emergency room visits and hospital utilization.

2014 Punch-list for a Healthier You

January 16th, 2014


Feet Slowing You Down?

December 10th, 2013

The health of your feet is probably one of the most underappreciated yet important keys to your overall health. Each foot contains 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and associated tendons – all taking tremendous pounding over the years. It’s estimated that 75% of Americans will experience foot problems in their lifetime. While both men and women suffer from foot problems, it’s commonly cited by experts that women are more likely than men to have foot problems. 

According to the American Osteopathic Association, high heels are one of the biggest factors leading to foot problems in women, with up to 1/3 suffering permanent problems because of constant wearing of high heels. A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that high heels can permanently change the way you walk (even without heels) and put you at greater risk for strain injuries. Chronic heel use can also result in ingrown toenails, nerve damage, bunions and irreversible leg tendon damage. The increased weight on your toes makes your body to move forward making you lean backwards and overarch your back, straining your knees, hips, and lower back possibly resulting in sciatica. 

Don’t let yourself get sidelined from physical activity because of preventable foot problems. For example, a bunion surgery can take 6 weeks to 6 months of recovery time. The National Foot Health Assessment survey showed that the percent of adults participating in physical activity is reduced almost in half if their foot health is rated fair/poor. 

Here are some helpful hints I found from the American Osteopathic Association to minimize the health risks from chronic heel-use: 

  • Choose shorter heels or flats more often. If you wear heels, pick ones that are less than 1.5 inches with a wide heel base;
  • Use insoles to reduce the impact on your knees;
  • Make sure your shoes are the right size so your foot doesn’t slide forward- which will put even more pressure on your toes. Pick a shoe with a wide enough toe box to let your toes wiggle;
  • Limit wearing heels on days when your schedule will include lots of walking or standing;
  • Alternate your shoe. Avoid wearing high heels all day by wearing flats during commute times; and
  • Take time every day to stretch your calf muscles and feet. 

Check out this slideshow on the worst shoes for your feet.

Empowering the El Congreso Internacional de Promoción de la Salud

November 19th, 2013

I was fortunate to attend the 2nd annual “ECongreso Internacional de Promoción de la Salud (CIPS)” last week in Hermosillo.  There were more than 400 public health attendees from 17 countries at the conference.  I presented our pre-school Empower program….  which empowers kids to make good choices about nutrition, physical activity, and tobacco using age-appropriate vehicles including costumed characters and a coloring book.  

My presentation focused on 10 Sample Policies including links to implementation resources.  I brought a 1-foot stack of Spanish Empower brochures which were completely gone after the first day.  Hopefully Empower will become a pre-school best-practice all the way from the Nogales border to Tierra del Fuego!

Sitting is the new smoking

October 23rd, 2013

Public health embarked on a smoking revolution over the last few decades, kicking it into high gear to provide programs and policies to help Arizonans change their smoking habits. While by no means has the tobacco battle been won, America is currently undergoing another revolution—a walking revolution. Physical activity is not new territory in public health. Public health professionals have been encouraging adults to achieve at least 150 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity per week.  Now, though, the public health world is taking a step back and promoting the simplest of physical activities: walking or biking. A recent study from Kansas State University looked at the association between sitting time and chronic diseases. The study found that people who sat for more than four hours per day were significantly more likely to report having a chronic disease such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. 

The Surgeon General has started the “Everybody Walk” campaign, releasing a document entitled “A Walking Revolution: The moving making Americans Happier and Healthier,” developing a free App that tracks all aspects of your walk, and hinting at writing a call to action on walking. This call-to-action is being compared to the famous 1964 Surgeon General’s Report on the dangers of smoking, translating that message into the dangers of sitting. 

Here at ADHS we take an innovative approach to promote more walking and less sedentary behavior. Our focus is to create environments where the healthy choice, walking, is the easy choice. Our Empower program establishes policies in child care centers that decrease sedentary time and screen time, and increases physical activity of youngsters. The Arizona Nutrition Network has been infusing traditional nutrition education with physical activity. Community design initiatives have worked to establish environments where walking or riding a bike are the predominant means of transportation in a community, rather than driving a car. With walking being so simple, the question remains: how will you walk or bike today?


Guide to Community Prevention Services

October 22nd, 2013

Every so often- you run into a resource guide that stands above the rest.  I discovered one of those awhile back called the Guide to Community Preventive Services – and it’s a free resource to help you choose programs and policies to improve health and prevent disease in communities.  The easy-to-read resource guide answers questions like: 1) Which program and policy interventions have been proven effective; 2) Are there effective interventions that are right for my community; and 3) What might effective interventions cost and what’s the return on investment?  

There are modules on different public health topics- and the evidence-based information is printed in colorful, easy-to-read formats.  Subjects include much of our core strategic plan activities in health and wellness including: Adolescent Health; Alcohol; Asthma; Birth Defects; Cancer; Cardiovascular Disease; Diabetes; Emergency Preparedness; Health Communication; Health Equity; HIV/AIDS,STD’s, Pregnancy; Mental Health; Motor Vehicle Injury; Nutrition; Obesity; Oral Health; Physical Activity; Social Environment; Tobacco Use; Vaccines; Violence; and Worksites.  Learn more about The Community Guide, collaborators involved in its development and dissemination, and methods used to conduct the systematic reviews.

Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, September 2013

September 5th, 2013

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and is a great time for us to take stock of where we are in the “Winnable Battle” of combatting obesity. Last month, we got some good news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that obesity rates in children and adults are leveling off after decades of going up.

Now we’ve learned that we are also making progress in school policies to promote healthy eating and physical activity. CDC just released the 2012 School Health Policies and Practices Study which shows the amazing changes that have occurred in schools to help students be healthy and ready-to-learn. For example, the number of school districts that prohibit offering junk food in vending machines has increased from just 4.1% in 2000 to nearly half in 2012 (43.3%).

Even with these encouraging signs, there is still work to do. The childhood obesity epidemic puts nearly one third of America’s children at risk for Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease – conditions usually associated with adulthood. Even greater disparities exist among young Hispanics and children of color. There are opportunities  every day to change these trends and the results can last a lifetime. All children deserve a healthy start in life and it’s our responsibility to make that possible. Let’s use Childhood Obesity Month to renew our resolve and use this opportunity to build awareness and take action where we live, learn, work, play, and receive care throughout Arizona.

The Departments of Economic Security and Health Services are working together to raise awareness of childhood obesity . I invite you to view a similar blog piece by my agency counterpart, Director Clarence Carter.