Over past decades, obesity rates in the United States have increased rapidly. Obesity is a very complex health issue that results from eating too many calories and not getting enough physical activity; as a result, causing an energy imbalance. Obesity is associated with genetic, behavioral, and social factors; however, physical activity and eating habits contribute the most.
Being overweight or obese also increases the risk for many chronic health conditions, such as coronary heart disease, Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, and respiratory problems. Additionally, women who are overweight or obese are at higher risk for miscarriage, still birth, and other complications during pregnancy. Babies born to women whot are overweight or obese are at higher risk for birth defects, preterm birth, and being obese later in life.
Three out of four Gaston County residents are either overweight or obese*. In 2013, the Gaston County Board of Health announced obesity to be our county’s top health priority. The Gaston County Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) aims to reduce the incidence of obesity by increasing programming to promote physical activity and improving nutritional practices. To do this, everyone has a role to play- including parents, schools, healthcare professionals, community-based organizations, and faith-based organizations.
Leaders in faith communities play a vital role in reducing obesity rates, as they are most trusted by their community and can encourage members to take action. Leaders of congregations know their members well; they represent their congregation, and can communicate key health and nutrition information in the most effective ways. Additionally, faith based organizations provide opportunities to share information, link members with resources in the community, and to organize initiatives.
DHHS is excited about new programs that are specifically tailored to tap into our local faith community’s expertise in moving people towards positive and healthy changes. The programs include educational sessions that target individual and family oriented behavioral changes; walking groups to increase physical activity; and assisting organizations in making policy level changes that will result in environmental and behavioral changes. These research-based programs are free and if you are interested, please call 704-853-5083 for more information.
Again, programs are just one piece of the puzzle and success does not happen overnight. It truly takes an entire community to plant the seeds that will lead to a healthier and happier generation.
By: Pushti Patel, Health Education Coordinator
Gaston County Department Health & Human Services
*Overweight and obese adults are those that weigh greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height. The terms overweight and obesity identify ranges of weight that have been shown to increase the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems.