Obesity in Toledo: Publicly funded bodies tackle obesity with education, activitiesWritten by Paige Shermis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A secret garden is growing behind the Believe Center in East Toledo. Rectangular concrete flowerbeds hold tomatoes on trellises and various herbs. Circular beds overflow with plant life and are decorated by the center’s young clients with rainbows, names and stars.
The garden is one of the projects of Creating Healthy Communities, an initiative of the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department. Creating Healthy Communities is one of several enterprises sponsored in part by the City of Toledo and the county designed to combat the area’s obesity epidemic.
According to the Huffington Post and 24/7 Wall Street, Toledo is the 7th fattest city in the U.S. Additionally, Section 11 of the 2011 Lucas County Health Assessment states that almost three-fourths (71 percent) of Lucas County adults are either overweight (36 percent) or obese (35 percent) by body mass index (BMI) calculation.
Amy Abodeely, a nutritionist at the health department and Tony Maziarz, a grant coordinator at the health department, lead Creating Healthy Communities.
“[Creating Healthy Communities] has nine objectives total, and six of them are in the category of healthy eating and active living, either physical activity related or nutrition
related. Both of those things are obesity-prevention related. There are six projects that we are working on. The first one we are doing with ProMedica is Safe Kids [Greater Toledo]. We are working with McKinley Elementary with the pickup and drop off policy, making it safer for kids to get picked up and dropped off at school and making it easier for kids to walk to school,” Maziarz said.
The second project is a client-choice food pantry at the Friendly Center in North Toledo.
“The food pantry items will be labeled according to MyPlate [a government nutrition graphic], and they will walk around and be able to pick themselves what they want. This objective is helping them to allow themselves to be healthy. There will also be education materials to help them make healthy choices,” Abodeely said.
Maziarz said that many of the projects that Creating Healthy Communities are doing are meant to last.
“A lot of things we are doing are policy systems and environmental change. Once we are gone, hopefully there will be continuing processes that are sustainable. These are all related to the access part of access healthy food or access physical activity,” Maziarz said.
The third project is the Believe Center’s community garden. Abodeely and Maziarz actually helped to plant the seeds and prepare the soil.
Creating Healthy Communities’ fourth project is a healthy corner store. This year, a Stop & Go on Broadway Street was chosen as the pilot store.
“We talked to the owners about the importance of having fresh produce in the corner store,” Abodeely said.
Healthy corner stores are important because people in the neighborhood who shop there typically don’t have access to transportation. Aug. 7 is the kickoff, when the fresh produce is being brought in.
The fifth project is a “four star healthy food pantry” model, promoting healthier food pantries, and the sixth is a breast-feeding initiative.
“All the things we do are evidence-based projects. All things must be approved by department of health. We can’t just do what we want to do,” Maziarz said.
Jan L. Ruma ?is vice president?of the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio?and executive director of Toledo-Lucas County CareNet.
“One of the things the Hospital Council does is community health assessments for Lucas County and throughout the region. One of the things that we assess is that we ask people to tell us their height and weight and we use body mass index to determine if they fall in the overweight or obese category. I have to tell you that the numbers are going in the wrong direction,” Ruma said.
The results of the individual exams are reported in the Lucas County Health Assessment.
Ruma said one of Toledo’s issues with obesity is that the local environment is not conducive for people to travel in any way other than in cars, with no suitable bicycle or walking paths.
“There are all different ways to attack these health improvement issues and I think our community is getting smarter about it, not just working with programs but also changing the environment so we prevent people from having the problem to begin with,” Ruma said.
Sarah Bucher is the director of healthy living for Live Well Greater Toledo, which is funded in part by the City of Toledo.
“[Live Well Greater Toledo] is a collaborative effort that leads to toward healthier communities. It is looking at outside programming — we are looking at policy changes and environmental changes for the community,” Bucher said.
Additionally, Bucher said that Live Well is working with Toledo Public Schools to establish safe walking routes to their schools, which are now all K-8 buildings.
“With TPS, this is very timely because within the last few years they have redistricted. Most of the schools are brand-new, and they were designed K-5 but now all of our schools are K-8.
“So, kids are walking there who aren’t supposed to be. Also, there is the two-mile radius rule; within two miles of school, no TPS busing is provided,” Bucher said.
Live Well’s programs are not targeted only toward children, however.
“It’s really for the overall community because if parents are active, then the children are less likely to get obese. It’s a community-wide initiative, we are not focusing on a specific age group,” Bucher said.