A local group working to stem obesity rates said it will take many years to see progress, but they are encouraged by what they've seen so far.
Eric Kennedy, director of the Center for Health Lifestyles at OSF St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington, is one of the leaders for the McLean County Wellness Coalition. It formed a decade ago to reduce obesity rates.
“What we do know is at least we have leveled the obesity rates from rising over the course of 10 years,” Kennedy said. “We also know that we have built partnerships.”
Those partnerships are with health care, schools, youth sports and others.
The coalition has organized a series of workplace wellness challenges with more than 6,000 participants. It has worked to encourage businesses and school to put healthier options in vending machines and sponsored nearly 20 community gardens.
The county's obesity rate dropped slightly from 32 percent in 2010 to 29 percent 2014, the most recent data available. The rate had risen in the previous six years, following a 23 percent mark in 2003.
Jackie Lanier, health science professor at Illinois State university and member of the McLean County Wellness Coalition, said the healthy options is typically not the easy option.
“We are continually combatting that to say you can still be healthy in the face of all these things around you,” Lanier said.
The coalition cites transportation, motivation and food insecurity as key obstacles to reducing obesity rates.
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