Tackling Obesity Through Healthy Food, Lifestyle
by Kati O'Hare
Aug 04, 2012 | 1668 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print

MONTROSE – Eating right and being active sounds easy, yet poor nutrition and a lack of physical activity are the second leading preventable causes of death in the United States and Colorado.

LiveWell Colorado is working to change that, and the Montrose community is one of 21 communities joining in that fight.

Valley Food Partnership, the Montrose area nonprofit group of volunteers whose goal it is to connect local farms to local forks for the betterment of a healthy community and economy, was recently awarded a $40,000 mobilization and planning grant from LiveWell Colorado.

The one-year planning grant could be the first of eight if Valley Food Partnership is demonstrably successful in achieving environmental and policy changes that help to prevent and reduce obesity.

"It's very different to get grant money and do a program for a few years, verses getting grant money and trying to impact how the environment around us is a contributor to not eating healthy, or how policies stand in the way that prevent us from eating healthy or supporting that," said Cathy Romaniello, LiveWell Montrose-Olathe coordinator. "We want an environment where kids can walk to school, where eating healthy is supported."

LiveWell Colorado is a nonprofit committed to preventing and reducing obesity by promoting healthy eating and active living.

LiveWell Montrose-Olathe will be led by the Growing Healthy Communities Coalition, a subgroup of the Valley Food Partnership. That coalition is made up of 35 members from agencies including the Montrose Recreation District, Olathe Activities Department, Montrose Memorial Hospital, Montrose County Health and Human Services, and faith-based organizations such as Sharing Ministries and Shepherd's Hand, Romaniello said.

"We first have to get people behind the idea," she said, and “get invested agencies that can help shape how we want to use the money. Rather than randomly saying we want to do this project or that, we'll spend the first year systematically exploring what the community wants and needs, with the objective of getting people to be healthy and active."

Forming the coalition was the first step, and one of the main outcomes of the one-year mobilization and planning period will be to create a strategic plan outlining a three-year blueprint for how the coalition will use more funding, Romaniello said.

LiveWell Colorado doesn't provide the coalition with a strategy – the strategy must be created based on the community's needs – but will give technical assistance to empower the coalition, she added.

LiveWell Montrose-Olathe has several projects in the works to educate the public about what is going on – or not going on – regarding healthy and active lifestyles within the community.

On Aug. 24, Dr. Dieter Heinz, from Albert Lee, Minn., will speak at Montrose Memorial Hospital about his community-wide "Vitality Project," based on Dan Buettner's Book, The Blue Zones, at a conference at 12 p.m.

"What's important about this presentation is that it's an example of where we might want to go with the LiveWell effort, i.e., strong involvement from the medical community, addressing health 'holistically,' strong linkages to the schools, etc.," Romaniello said.

Another project, dubbed Photovoice, will involve student at Montrose's Vista Charter School.

"This strategy is used to bring an issue to everyone's attention by putting a camera into people's hands that have an issue," she said.

Romaniello will work with Vista students, sending them out into the community with cameras to take pictures that illustrate what is keeping the community from being chock-full of healthy citizens, and what is helping.

"This funding is being awarded to the Montrose-Olathe community for its solid plans to affect positive change through strategic education, action and collaboration," said Maren Stewart, president and CEO of LiveWell Colorado.

According to Stewart, LiveWell Montrose-Olathe's characteristics and conditions are well suited to this type of investment, because of its sizable population with an interconnected network for multichannel interventions, its strong agricultural communities that create a fertile base to link food and activity to healthy outcomes, the community's readiness for change based on its prior successful programs and funding, and its broad spectrum of local leaders willing to participate.

"The needs and the strengths of this community are inextricably intertwined," Romaniello said. "We will be brining together the health department, schools, hospitals, recreation facilities, health care providers, nonprofit agencies, state and local government agencies, migrants, farmers, seniors, youth and others – all of whom are committed to sowing the seeds of change for better health and, thereby, reducing our obesity rates."

Kati O'Hare at kohare@watchnewspapers.com

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