The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

July 15, 2012

Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Group steps up efforts to promote healthy lifestyles

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Watch out. You may get caught being healthy.

Joanna Rhodes, with Live Well Crawford County, contacted me last week to tell me that team members from the task force will be on the lookout for people who are being physically active. It’s part of Live Well’s new “Catch ’em Healthy” campaign that will run for the remainder of July.

Rhodes says those who are “caught” being healthy will receive a health-related incentive: an iPod armband, a reflector or a water bottle.

As part of the Crawford County Community Coalition, Live Well Crawford County is on a mission to promote healthy lifestyle choices through education, motivation and support, Rhodes says.

But the group has its work cut out for it: This is not the healthiest part of the state by a long shot. Southeast Kansas currently ranks within the bottom 10 percent for health outcomes in Kansas, according to studies by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Kansas Health Institute. Crawford County is 88th, Labette County 91st, Bourbon County 92nd, Cherokee County 96th and Montgomery County is in last place at 100th.

Among the group’s tally marks toward positive change, Live Well has been providing small grants for farmers markets, walking and biking trails, and healthy concessions. This year the group also began regularly presenting Apple Awards to businesses or individuals who help the community lead healthy lives.

Among the first recipients were Roger Lomshek, owner of Tailwind Cyclists, who has advocated for improved recreational opportunities in Pittsburg and was a driving force behind the creation of the 23rd Street Bike Park; and the Southeast School District Health Council, which has purchased pedometers for staff, coordinated free health screenings and family fun nights, and provided teachers with a GeoFitness system to combine fitness with music and math.

The task force has more plans in store: working toward additional walking and biking trails, safe routes for youths to walk to school and public centers for physical activity. Members also recently visited Wyandotte County, Kan., pegged as one of two “learning laboratories” nationally, to determine best practices in reversing trends in an unhealthy community.

But the greatest improvement must come at the grass-roots level, meaning individuals. Improving one’s health can be as easy as taking a walk, parking a little farther away from the store, riding a bike to work instead of driving, pushing a stroller, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or playing in your backyard with children, grandchildren or a pet.

Beyond that, those interested in supporting the efforts of Live Well may contact Rhodes at 620-232-1930 or at livewellcrawfordcounty@gmail.com. Or, follow the group on Facebook at facebook.com/livewellcrawfordcounty.

And if you get caught being healthy, please let me know. There just may be a future column in that!

Have an idea for a column? Email astefanoni@joplinglobe.com, or visit Facebook at Andra Bryan Stefanoni, Staff Writer - The Joplin Globe. Visit the Globe’s newest Facebook page at Joplin Globe: Pittsburg, Kan. Follow Andra Stefanoni on Twitter @AndraStefanoni.

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