published Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Tackling obesity

Local health professionals get update on Step ONE

by Brittany Cofer
  • photo
    Staff Photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press Cindy Worley walks with her sons, six-year-old Austin Worley, right, and seven-month-old Peyton Worley, riding in a stroller, on the Tennessee Riverwalk on Wednesday afternoon. The National Center for Bicycling and Walking presented a new project, and the YMCA presented a new grant for pioneering healthy communities at the Partnership for Healthy Living meeting on Wednesday.

Parachute play might not be what you'd expect a group of local health professionals to do at a meeting, but on Wednesday that's what members of the Partnership for Healthy Living did.

The group of about 40 met at the Creative Discovery Museum to discuss local healthy living initiatives and, as a way to put their principles into practice, the museum's director of education, Jayne Griffin, led the group in some playtime activities.

In parachute play, some held a large parachute over their heads while others ran underneath the billowing cloth. In another activity, they did stretching exercises with an enormous elastic-and-cloth band.

But the meeting wasn't just about fun and games.

John Bilderback, program manager for Step ONE, the Hamilton County Health Department's obesity prevention program, outlined steps the county is taking to promote healthy lifestyles.

"We need to identify the real issues in the community and what we can do," he told the group. "We don't want to reinvent the wheel."

Mr. Bilderback introduced the Grow Healthy Together Chattanooga project, which aims at environmental and policy changes to provide healthy living choices. The project's goals include providing greater access to healthy foods and increasing opportunities for safe physical activity in parks and recreation facilities, he said.

"It all goes back to why we are not active," Mr. Bilderback said. "We need to provide healthy choices and a means to get them."

The project is part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's national Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities program.

To help the Healthy Kids program, the YMCA of Metropolitan Chattanooga has created its Pioneering Healthier Communities project, said Bill Rush, local project manager for Activate America, the national YMCA's effort to improve health through cultural changes.

The Pioneering project seeks to provide support, services and staff for the local Healthy Kids program and has the same goals of environmental and policy change, he said.

"It involves dedicated people who are passionate about making a change," Mr. Rush said. "The action plan is being developed now."

One way residents can get involved is through the National Center for Bicycling & Walking's Emerging Leaders Program, a pilot program in Chattanooga and Nashville that aims to improve children's mobility and health. By the fall, program manager Mark Plotz hopes to have five to six internships set up in Chattanooga, giving students the chance to implement youth mobility by providing increased access to healthy foods, walking and bicycling.

Mr. Plotz said the program will help the community's children and the students involved in the internships, who will be given experience in areas such as planning and community design.

"We're still having students coming out of universities who don't get this message," he said. "It's only going to go so far as the next grant unless we implement real, systemic change. We need to introduce these ideas into the curriculum and give students experience -- that's how we're going to create real change."

Alex, sr edited; with photo, box, shape sig, tease to shape page, tag to Walk Georgia story on B2, links and comments


The National Center for Bicycling & Walking's Emerging Leaders Program began in summer 2009 with preliminary research to determine the host state. By fall, Tennessee was chosen as "the ideal testing ground." The program is working with Vanderbilt University and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to recruit interns to help implement youth mobility in each community. Interns in Chattanooga are expected to be announced by May 31. They will be trained during the summer and will begin their internships in the fall semester. Interns will be given a stipend, expected to be about $1,000.

Source: Mark Plotz, Emerging Leaders program manager

More Online

At, find a BMI calculator, a nutritionist's column, a dieters' blog, dieters' success stories, FAQs on obesity and links to Web pages with information on healthy living.

about Brittany Cofer...

Brittany Cofer is a business reporter who has been with the Chattanooga Times Free Press since January 2010. She previously worked as a general assignment Metro reporter. In the Business department, she covers banking, retail, tourism, consumer issues and green issues. Brittany is from Conyers, Ga., and spent two years at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga., before transferring to the University of Georgia. She graduated from the university’s Grady College of Journalism in December ...

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