Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 10, 2013

Anti-obesity coalition plans public launch

Kenneth Hart
CNHI News Service

RUSSELL — A new coalition formed to combat the obesity epidemic in northeastern Kentucky will have its public launch later this month.

Healthy Choices Kentucky will host a Business After Hours health symposium from 5 to 7 p.m. Jan. 24 at the Bellefonte Pavilion (the former Ashland Petroleum Co. building), 2000 Ashland Drive.

The event. which is free and open to the public, will feature information booths from Healthy Choices Kentucky partners, guest speakers and healthful hors d’oeuvres. There will also be drawings for door prizes.

The guest speakers for the symposium will be Dr. Michelle Friday, a cardiologist, who will talk about obesity’s effect on heart disease, and Dr. A.K. Khanna, a pediatrician, who will speak on the topic of childhood obesity.

The information booths at the symposium will provide attendees with the opportunity to learn what they can do to fight obesity, and more on obesity’s relationship to other health conditions.

Among the topics covered by the booths will be healthy eating, exercise, cancer risks, women’s health, diabetes, sleep disorders, hypertension and heart disease, stroke risk, behavioral health issues and orthopedic problems. Ashland Community and Technical College, Hager Elementary, Charles Russell Elementary and Russell Independent Schools will have educational booths.

Health Choices Kentucky is a partnership involving 26 different entities. It was formed in response to a community health risks assessment that showed obesity was one of the region’s most prevalent health problems, said Chuck Charles, vice president of the OLBH Foundation.

The OLBH board voted to tackle the obesity problem, Charles said. However, he also pointed out that even though Healthy Choices Kentucky was initiated by the hospital and OLBH is one of the partners in, it’s actually a stand-alone consortium.

According to Charles, statistics show more than 40 percent of the residents of Boyd and Greenup counties are obese, with obese being defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or more. It’s the goal of Healthy Choices Kentucky to halt the increase of average BMI in those counties within three years, Charles said.

Kentucky also ranks first in the nation in percentage of overweight or obese children, and a recent study by Emory University showed Kentucky was one of six states projected to have an obesity rate exceeding 50 percent by 2018-2020, Charles said.

Healthy Choices Kentucky also recently launched its website, healthychoiceskentucky.com, which is designed to serve as a one-stop clearinghouse, of sorts, for folks who are interested in losing weight and getting healthy, Charles said. The site offers nutrition and exercise information, along with local resources that can be utilized to achieve weight-loss goals, he said.

The other partners in Healthy Choices Kentucky are Applebee’s, Ashland Alliance, Ashland Area YMCA, Ashland-Boyd County Health Department, Ashland Kroger, Boyd and Greenup County Extension Offices, Boyd and Greenup County judge-executives’ offices, Boyd County Public Library, Boyd County Medical Alliance, City of Ashland, FIVCO Area Development District, Greenup County Health Department, Greenup County Schools, Highlands Museum and Discovery Center, Jim Fannin, Coach of Champions, Kentucky Heart Foundation/Health Kids Healthy Communities Coalition, Lawrence County Health and Wellness Initiative, Morehead State University, Ohio University Southern and River Cities Harvest.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.