Arkansas Unveils Healthy Game Plan

Monday, July 12th 2004, 12:24 pm
By: News On 6

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ The state's plan to raise Arkansans' awareness of health issues such as smoking and obesity has been unveiled, but with no indication of where the money might come from to pay for putting it into action _ or how much money would be needed.

``A Blueprint for Changing The Culture of Health,'' released last week, states goals to accomplish by the end of 2005, including:

_A public-awareness media campaign.

_School-based pilot programs to study the effect of diet and physical activity on students' body-mass indexes.

_And promoting the development of community gardens and farmers' markets.

The plan was developed in response to the Healthy Arkansas initiative announced in May by Gov. Mike Huckabee.

That initiative set goals of reducing Arkansans' obesity, tobacco use and physical inactivity within two years, and gave Dr. Fay Boozman, the state Health Department director, the responsibility of achieving those goals. But neither Boozman nor Huckabee has suggested any specific ways to pay for programs to achieve those goals.

Boozman said Thursday that he hoped official emphasis on creating a healthier population would draw interest from national private foundations and companies looking to set up a model.

``The national interest in what we're doing is amazing,'' Boozman said.

Huckabee's support and the establishment of a clear plan will ensure that Arkansas can move to the front of the line as it seeks funding.

Boozman said he could not determine this early how much aspects of the plan would cost to carry out, but said he didn't expect to get more money from the Legislature, considering the state's education needs.

Martha Hiett, with the Health Department, said officials also hope to maximize their use of existing federal grants to achieve the plan's goals.

The ``blueprint'' submitted to the governor Thursday described activities, some of them already under way, that target Arkansans in four categories: the state as a whole, children in schools, adults at work and aging Arkansans.

Some of the specifics:

_For all Arkansans: a Healthy Families-Healthy Arkansas statewide media campaign, including a risk-assessment process and expansion of the Healthy Arkansas Web site to add information about the dangers of smoking, obesity and physical inactivity; and a Health Community Award to present every two years starting in May 2005.

_For school-age children: continued recording and analyzing of the body-mass indexes of students required in all public schools; a Governors Physical Fitness Award similar to the President's Physical Fitness Award, to be awarded by May 2005; support for school-based nutrition and physical-activity advisory committees; and a pilot program to gauge the effect of limiting high-calorie foods and beverages in school vending machines; another pilot program to assess the effect of promoting physical activity on average body-mass indexes.

_For adults at work: tool kits to support employee wellness programs at plants, stores and offices, including possible body-mass index assessments and incentives for healthier living; and a clearinghouse of worksite-wellness programs by March 2005.

_For aging Arkansans: education for older Arkansans about healthy living, including food preparation, smoking cessation and exercise; encouragement by the state of community gardens to provide fresh fruits and vegetables; and a pilot program in a senior center in the state by January 2005.