Surgeon General Promotes Initiative To Fight Obesity
LABELLE, FL. -- The Florida Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John H. Armstrong visited the Florida Department of Health in Hendry County Friday afternoon to meet staff and community partners while promoting the state's Healthiest Weight Initiative and to answer questions about health topics and local health issues.
(photo: Surgeon General John Armstrong, State Representative Matt Hudson, Hendry-Glades Health Department Administrator and Health Officer Patricia Dobbins.)
Dr. Armstrong, who rules over health matters in 67 Florida counties, told about two dozen community health leaders that there are three basic "substitution" steps to a better healthy lifestyle; drink water instead of sugary drinks; change to fruits and vegetables from processed foods, snack on carrots and celery instead of high carb processed snacks; thirdly take the stairs instead of the elevator. He said spend 30 minutes eating and then 30 minutes of walking after a meal, and he insists he takes his own advice at home and office to create better health choices for himself.
Armstrong noted the Florida WIC program has been experimenting in Miami with a card for clients that allow certain food items to be purchased to benefit children and mothers, tracking actual purchases so correlations may be made between the purchases and health benefits resulting from use of the cards. He said it might be possible for SNAP (food stamp) programs to implement such a card program as well, although noting the Federal Government is in charge of the SNAP program.
Hendry Superintendent of Schools Paul Puletti advised Dr. Armstrong that one problem he sees is the "targeting" of kids by the fast food industry, becoming an obstacle to healthier eating by school children, and secondly the lack of stores that stock fresh fruit and vegetables in many rural neighborhoods. He said although the schools provide healthy foods including fresh fruit and vegetables, some kids routinely just throw the healthy food in the garbage.
Hendry Commissioner Darrell Harris who also works for the Hendry schools' food service department said he's seen kids throw out the good food and then later visit fast food restaurants with their parents.
Armstrong related how he spend a morning visiting first and second graders and noted that the kids didn't even know how to peel a banana or take the cap off a drink container, but "gobbled" up a "wad" of carbohydrate laden food from an easy to open cellophane packaging.
He noted that about half of Florida kids do not have physical education classes.
Healthiest Weight Florida is a public-private collaboration bringing together state agencies, not for profit organizations, businesses, and entire communities to help Florida's children and adults make choices about healthy eating and active living.
Among the focuses of the state's new health promotion program are to increase breastfeeding of infants, promote improved nutrition and physical activity in children, increasing access to high quality affordable foods in communities, and promote awareness of patient body mass index (BMI).
Dr. Armstrong also made a similar presentation at the Glades County Health Department in Moore Haven on Thursday.