Nat West has a message for Polk County and that message is ... shape up! West is a retired executive with Winter Haven Hospital who is also a force behind the “Building a Healthier Polk,” a three-year initiative that seeks to reduce the obesity rate in the county by October 2015.
Polk County has a higher obesity rate than the rest of the state, and West’s group aims to do something about it.
“We know the actual statistics of health in Polk County,” West told the Polk County Board of County Commissioners recently. Obese adult Polk County residents total 37.6 percent, compared to the state average of 27.2 percent. West added that and other figures came from four separate assessments. “We have a long way to go.”
The Building a Healthier Polk organization is made up of several community partners brought together by Polk Vision.
West had appeared before commissioners to introduce “Building a Healthier Polk.” He was also there to receive a proclamation of support from the county on the initiative.
“Obesity has been described as the fastest growing public health problem in the United States,” said West. “The Lakeland-Winter Haven area has been deemed as the seventh fastest growing metropolitan service area in the country.” Obesity contributes to the three major causes of death: Diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
West called for an increase in leisure time activities at low and/or no-cost facilities. He pressed the county commission on the need for neighborhoods to have complete sidewalks, bike paths and parks. In the workforce, the strategy will be to increase by 5 percent positive employee behavior. We applaud West and the Building a Healthier Polk group for their efforts and hope the commission and other local governments get behind the initiative.
What can local governments do? Provide as many recreational opportunities as local budgets will allow to their residents. Parks where people can walk, tennis courts and basketball courts where they can play and gyms where they can work out. As West would tell you, money spent on recreation activities is money not spent on obesity-related diseases.
The Building a Healthier Polk group meets the second Tuesday of each month at
3:30 p.m., in Lakeland. Want to attend? Call Colleen Mangan, Community Health Improvement Planner with the Polk County Health Department at 863-519-7900, ext. 11334.