The chronic disease burden throughout the nation is staggering. In the U.S. nearly 35 percent of adults and 17 percent of children and adolescents aged 2-19 years are classified as obese (CDC, 2015; CDC, 2015). Nearly 29.1 million people in the U.S. have diabetes and two-thirds of adults in the U.S. can be categorized as either pre-hypertensive or hypertensive (ADA, 2016; CDC, 2015). These numbers result in many U.S. residents living with comorbidities.
One of the biggest influencing factors on chronic disease is nutrition. A diet consisting of sound nutrition can help individuals stay healthy and reverse or manage chronic diseases, including the ones mentioned above. Conversely, poor nutritional habits can lead to, and worsen, these diseases.
To help recognize the role that nutrition plays in leading a healthy lifestyle, March has been designated as National Nutrition Month®. A month-long observance since 1980, National Nutrition Month is led by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and aims to bring awareness to the importance of making informed, healthy choices around nutrition.
Unfortunately, healthy choices are not always the easiest choices. Healthy food and beverage options are not always readily available or may not be affordable for individuals and families, which can lead to unhealthy eating habits.
So, how can we address these barriers?
Some ideas include community gardens, farmers markets and healthy food retail programs. These are a few of the strategies that Plan4Health coalitions are using to improve their local food systems to create environments where healthy food and beverage options are accessible for all.
The Kenton County Plan4Health Coalition in Kenton County, Kentucky, is an example of a coalition working to provide access to nutritious food throughout their community. The coalition implemented a countywide assessment to better understand the food environment and inform their efforts at creating healthy food retail options. The coalition has worked with multiple corner stores in the community to incorporate healthy food options as well as healthy messaging and signage. Additionally, a food policy working group has been established and will work together to continue to address issues related to food access in the community.
Learn more about the Kenton County Plan4Health Coalition’s work by visiting their webpage, the Eat Healthy NKY Facebook page or watching the mini-webinars they created on community based marketing; GIS mapping and data analysis; community engagement and surveys; and the coalition’s approach to outreach and recruitment for their corner store program.
Want to engage children in National Nutrition Month? First Lady Michelle Obama announced the fifth annual Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, inviting children ages 8-12 to create an original recipe that is healthy, affordable, and delicious. Learn more here!
American Diabetes Association. 2016. Statistics about diabetes. Retrieved from:
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 2015. Adult obesity facts. Retrieved from:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2015. Childhood obesity facts. Retrieved from:
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 2015. High blood pressure facts. Retrieved from:
Pictures courtesy of the Kenton County Plan4Health Coalition