More than 120 community leaders representing hospitals and health agencies and organizations, as well as officials from city, county and the federal governments, attended the Winter Park Health Foundation’s Annual Community Leaders’ Luncheon on April 20 at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando.
The luncheon featured speaker Dr. Tom Farley, co-author of the book, “Prescription for a Healthy Nation: A New Approach to Improving Our Lives by Fixing Our Everyday World.”
This was the fifth annual community leaders’ event sponsored by the Foundation to give local leaders the opportunity to hear from a national expert on topics of importance to the health of the community. Past speakers have included Malcolm Gladwell, author of the bestselling book “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference;” leadership leader and Harvard Professor Dr. Ron Heifetz; internationally-recognized health policy analyst Emily Friedman and Marc Freedman, CEO of Civic Ventures.
Dr. Farley, the Chair of the Department of Community Health Sciences at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, provided startling statistics about the state of U.S. health as well as new ways to find solutions.
He noted that in spite of the wealth of the country, the U.S. age-adjusted mortality rate for men is 24th among nations and 31st for women. While leading causes of death in the U.S. include heart disease, stroke and lung disease, the underlying actual causes are things like tobacco, diet/physical activity and alcohol, Farley said.
Many people know about healthy behavior, but they don’t always put what they know into practice, according to Farley. For example, while 73 percent of 12th graders say smoking is a “great risk” to health, 30 percent still smoke.
So Farley proposes looking at environmental factors that can influence healthy behaviors, which he calls “curve shifters.”
Curve shifters can include “accessibility” such as when fruits and vegetables become more available because of price and where they are displayed in a store. Another “curve shifter” is “physical structures.” This would involve providing structures such as sidewalks that provide opportunities for healthy behaviors.
The other two “curve shifters” include “social structures,” such as laws and policies and the use of “media messages.”
So what can be done “environmentally” to help citizens get more exercise? Farley suggested communities might build sidewalks and bike lanes on all roads; build more neighborhood parks, playground and walking paths; change building codes and building designs to make stairways accessible and attractive; and establish community recreation programs for children and adults.
And when it comes to helping reduce calorie intake, Farley said options might include banning soft drinks and junk food from schools, banning advertising of junk food, limiting number and location of fast food restaurants and banning drive-through windows.
“A small number of individual behaviors determine much of our society’s health,” he said. “These behaviors are influenced by factors in schools, neighborhoods, communities and society. We can improve health by changing those environments.”
To download Dr. Farley’s PowerPoint presentation, click here.