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Group seeks to make community healthier

January 31, 2002

Group seeks to make community healthier



By SCOTT BUTKI
scottb@herald-mail.com


A steering committee made up of members of local agencies and others wants to convince Washington County residents to exercise more and make healthier eating decisions.

The Health and Fitness Challenge's kickoff event will be held in early April, said Lynn Little, the committee's facilitator. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with the Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County.

The group will encourage area residents to set personal goals, including:

- Increasing physical activity.

- Making healthier food choices.

- Increasing water consumption.

- Having more fiber in the diet.

- Reducing stress by balancing life and work.

The campaign to make Washington County a healthier community will continue throughout 2002 but specific details are still being worked out, Little said.

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Committee members hope to hold an event each month, including education programs and activities, she said.

The group wants to hold the events at sites throughout the county to make them accessible to everyone, Little said.

Cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure screenings may be available at some events, she said.

The steering committee is made up of members of the Washington County Health Department, the Washington County Board of Commissioners, the cooperative extension, the Washington County Health System, the Board of Education and the Maryland Statewide Health Network.

"I think first of all, one's health is as important as anything," said Commissioner Paul L. Swartz, who is on the committee.

"If you do not have good health, everything else is secondary," Swartz said. "I believe we should set the example as commissioners to promote a healthy community. And in doing so we are not just supporting physical health but also mental health."

Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger, who is on the committee, said he thinks the campaign is a good initiative for all residents.

"I think we all need to ... pay more attention to our well-being. Balancing nutrition, eating habits and exercise seems to make sense," he said.

Health Officer William Christoffel and Little said they hope the campaign will reduce the obesity rate in Washington County, which is higher than the state average.

It is not known why Washington County residents are more obese than elsewhere in the state, he said.

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