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Local programs aim to combat obesity concerns

Posted: September 28, 2012 6:10 p.m.
Updated: October 1, 2012 5:00 a.m.

A new study suggests that nearly two-thirds of South Carolina residents could be obese by 2030. The alarming figures are included in a report recently released by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, non-profit organizations that work towards improving the nation’s health. With such a troubling trajectory, several programs in Kershaw County are seeking to curb the trend.

Whitney Hinson, KershawHealth’s community health coordinator, said the hospital offers a number of different avenues to help individuals control weight issues.

“We have our Take Charge Weight Management Program. It’s not necessarily for people to lose weight, but it can teach people some tools that they can use to lose weight or maintain their weight. It’s about all about living healthier,” Hinson said.

She noted the hospital also offers “grocery store tours.”

“Unfortunately we don’t have any coming up on the calendar soon, but that entails actually meeting with a dietician at a local grocery store,” Hinson said. “It involves learning to be better, healthier shoppers. It shows people how to read food labels, calculate how many calories you should have. We try to stay to the perimeter of the store because that’s usually what you should stick to -- your fruits, vegetables, meats, and diary.”

Hinson indicated that it can be difficult at times trying to change people’s mindsets when it comes to moving towards a healthier lifestyle.

“It’s all about moderation and portion size. For instance, you might be a type of person that you can’t eat just one cookie. It’s best to just not buy those in the first place,” she said. “It’s never too late though. There’s something for everybody. I mean you can even do exercises just sitting in your chair.”

For younger generations, the Kershaw County School District (KCSD) is also championing healthier initiatives in schools.

KCSD Communications Director Mary Ann Byrd said area schools incorporate a tool known as the “Fitness-gram,” which helps assess the health of elementary students.

“That helps monitor a student’s activity level. We use that as an avenue to try to promote a healthier lifestyle when they’re at a young age. They can continue that for a lifetime,” Byrd said. “Some of our schools also have their own wellness program, which includes things like walking trails and aerobic activities.”

Additionally, the Kershaw County “Eat Smart, Move More” coalition is working to implement and upgrade community services to improve health for all ages.

Pam Spivey, United Way of Kershaw County’s director of campaign and communications and an “Eat Smart, Move More” representative, said the group is working with Camden Walmart Manager Joe Quinlan to continue operating healthy checkout lanes at the store.

“If you go to Walmart and you see aisle three and eight, they have, instead of candy bars and junky stuff, there is fresh fruits, healthy snacks, and things like jump ropes and balls, things that encourage movement,” Spivey said. “So we put those two aisles in to just to what kind of response there would be. The feedback from customers has been very positive.”

She noted that a labeling program will also be orchestrated at the store.

“We’re going to go in and label hundreds of items so that they’ll have the shelf tags and the ‘bean clips,’ which are the little tags that stick out from the aisle. For food, it will say ‘eat smart’ on the label and in the activities section, it will have ‘move more.’ They’ll have our logo as well,” Spivey said.

She said the group wants to cultivate healthy shopping habits by making the process as easy as possible.

“We feel like people want to make good choices. Sometimes though it’s challenging,” she said.

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