In an effort to improve the health of Hoosiers community by community, Purdue Extension is developing wellness coalitions throughout Indiana . In each county of the state, Purdue Extension educators will work collectively to bring a variety of local resources together to enhance community health. “We are taking a holistic approach to healthy living,” says Karen Zotz, Purdue Extension program leader in consumer and family sciences.
Healthy People, Healthy Communities was launched in January with a statewide videoconference that focused on resources available to Indiana communities to help them create healthier environments. “Real behavior change is necessary to prevent and treat obesity,” says Connie Weaver, head of the Purdue Department of Foods and Nutrition. “What we have learned is that changes in the environment sustain real change and occur with community support.”
While much of the emphasis on healthy living is tied to the foods people eat, the Healthy People, Healthy Communities approach will encompass many factors that contribute to health and weight problems. “We know that fitness is important, too, but many of our communities, particularly in rural areas, lack fitness resources,” Zotz says. “It's tough to walk or run in the winter in some communities. Parents often find it difficult to locate play areas for children due to lack of recreational facilities.”
Purdue Extension educators will partner with many community groups to create coalitions to identify and address specific local problems with regard to health and well-being issues. “Each coalition will tackle concerns specific to its community's needs,” Zotz says.
Examples of how Purdue Extension could help these efforts include nutrition programs; parenting and youth programs; landscaping and environmental expertise; economic and community development resources; and help in locating and attracting funding opportunities.
Pets need exercise, too
Pets, like people, should get 30 to 45 minutes of exercise daily, says a Purdue University wellness veterinarian, who urges pet owners to include their animal companions in their plans to get more exercise.
Lorraine Corriveau says 25 percent of dogs and cats are obese. “Obese dogs have an increased prevalence of heart disease and increased blood pressure,” she says. “Both dogs and cats are at heightened risk for diabetes.”
Other health problems include difficulty breathing, skin problems and joint problems. Corriveau encourages pet owners to consult a veterinarian to find the correct weight-management program for their pets and for tips on how to get them more exercise.