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An annual behavioral risk survey conducted by the CDC suggests that obesity rates in Delaware have plateaued in recent years. Photo by The News Journal/Jennifer Corbett
Its the kind of statistic no one likes to hear except maybe the owner of the local doughnut shop.
Delaware has the third-highest obesity rate in the nation, according to a recently published Gallup poll. Using
self-reported height and weight information, Gallup officials computed Delawares obesity rate at 34 percent,
above the national average of 27 percent.
Public health officials caution that while the poll isnt scientific and leaves plenty of room for error in a state
as small as Delaware its a reminder that more needs to be done to encourage and sustain a healthy lifestyle.
Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health, said data from the annual behavioral risk survey conducted by the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention suggest obesity rates have plateaued in the First State in recent years. There also are signs of a slight increase in
physical activity among residents.
We are usually around the national average or slightly worse, Rattay said. We still have a problem.
Some of that increase in physical activity might be the result of an effort among several municipalities to promote physical activity and other healthy
lifestyle choices. Middletown, Seaford and Newark are among the communities developing outdoor programs.
Next week, the city of Newark will boost its existing efforts with the kickoff of its Healthy Newark initiative. The focus is promoting healthy activities and
lifestyle options in the college town through social media and the hashtag #HealthyNewarkDE.
Theres a need for Delaware local governments to get involved and improve their built environment, said Marcia Scott, a policy scientist with the
University of Delaware Institute for Public Administration. We really need municipalities to look beyond land use plans.
Rattay said that kind of community approach can make a difference, though the results can take years to see. The goal is to make a healthy lifestyle
the default with walking paths, pedestrian friendly sidewalks and access to fresh fruits and vegetables rather than something that has to be sought
We dont have a state of individuals who have simply lost willpower. It is more difficult to make the healthy choices, Rattay said. The best way to really
support people making healthy choices is by taking a comprehensive approach. It is having community leaders and a variety of stakeholders looking at
what are the greatest barriers in our individual community.
Last summer, the states Council on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention recognized seven Delaware municipalities for their work on promoting
community health. The awards were intended to highlight community efforts to improve access to health-based services, provide spaces for safe and
appropriate physical activity, reduce tobacco use and encourage healthy eating, Rattay said.
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
Middletown, Newark, Seaford, Wilmington, New Castle, Bethany
Beach and Dover were recognized for taking a collaborative approach to
healthy lifestyle. Among their efforts: banning smoking in parks,
encouraging students to walk to school, adding a bus stop near a grocery
requiring new housing developments to connect to existing shopping and
neighborhoods to encourage walking and biking.
Scott said the efforts also reflect many of the recommendations
found in the Toolkit for a Healthy Delaware, a website developed by the
Delawares Institute for Public Administration.
The way we are building communities is not like how we used to
build communities. It used to be pedestrian-oriented and built like on a
grid. In this era
of suburbanization, everything became car-oriented. The whole thing
created a perfect storm for this epidemic of obesity, said Scott, who
a resource guide that formed the basis for the online toolkit.
Each community has its individual needs, Rattay said. A community
approach encourages other stakeholders such as the local church,
senior center to be part of the solution.
They have to be tailored to what their greatest barriers are. If
you dont have a walkable community, why not? Is violence an issue?
Rattay said. Do
we need better lighting or can we make changes that can make people feel
In Wilmingtons Southbridge community, residents wanted more
access to healthy foods, especially for people who dont drive. The
addition of a bus
stop near the ShopRite grocery store was a relatively simple change that
reaped big benefits, Rattay said.
Even the relatively easy change to make water more available in
the Delaware State Parks as part of its Munch Better campaign made a
the two years the project was studied, water was the best-selling
Scott cited Bethany Beach and Newarks Main Street as examples of
locations that encourage active living. The two locales blend
residential properties while offering trails, community exercise
programs and other outdoor amenities.
Its that kind of outlook that Newark hopes to celebrate through
its Healthy Newark partnership. The initiative was developed by the
citys parks and
recreation department, the Downtown Newark Partnership and Fusion
Fitness Center. The campaign runs through April 11.
But community doesnt just have to be made up of geographical
neighbors. One arm of the Healthier Sussex County Initiative is relying
on a virtual
community to increase physical activity and encourage healthy choices
among residents in southern Delaware.
It joined the charitable giving site Plus 3 Network, which
tallies exercise and converts it into points redeemed in dollars by
Participants are earning money for Sussex Outdoors, a public
awareness campaign made up of Bayhealths Milford Memorial Hospital,
Healthcare and Nanticoke Health Services.
So far, the exercise campaign has raised almost $5,000, said John
Hollis, Sussex manager of community and government affairs for Nemours
Its a great incentive, he said.
Originally published in The News Journal on March 17, 2014. Article by Contact Kelly Bothum.