Let’s Move campaign emphasizes healthy living

In the old days, cars didn’t have seatbelts.

Eventually they did, but most people sat on them, not in them.

Later, you had to endure annoying buzzers if you

didn’t buckle up. Laws were passed to require that, and future wives extracted promises that you would always do it.

So, eventually, most of us succumbed and now do it out of habit, hardly thinking.

At a news conference Thursday at the Hollidaysburg YMCA, Executive Director Tom Kopriva announced the coming “launch” of Blair County’s version of first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign in terms of those first 1960s seatbelts.

Blair ranks 51st among the state’s 67 counties in indicators of good health.

He’s hoping that eventually, with parents insisting their kids exercise and eat healthfully, and with kids bugging their parents to do likewise, we’ll be – seatbelt-wise – in the habitual phase, like Denver seems to be.

Denver, we read and hear, is full of happy, healthy, thriving people, according to Kopriva, who ran the news conference with the help of the leaders of three of the five area launch events set for Mansion Park, Tiger Stadium in Hollidaysburg, Northern Blair County Recreation Center in Tipton, the former East Freedom Elementary School and downtown Williamsburg from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 21.

With the help of the exercises, tips on healthful eating, medical screenings and how-to’s on quitting unhealthy habits to be presented at these launch events, and with continual follow up by area school districts, hospitals and other organizations in the years to come, healthful habits can become part of our culture, he said.

That will benefit us directly and also create additional opportunities because a reputation like Denver’s helps attract people and businesses, Kopriva said.

Do people and businesses want to come to places where people are healthy, happy and thriving?

“That’s exactly it,” said the trim, healthy-looking Kopriva. “We don’t have the Rocky Mountains …[but] if there’s a perception we’re a health-conscious community, I think people would want to stop here.”

The idea for Let’s Move Blair County came out of the Healthy Lifestyle Work Group, one of five work groups created by the Healthy Blair County Coalition, which helped the three community hospitals fulfill their obligation under the Affordable Care Act to conduct regular surveys to assess public health.

The work group considered the county’s poor healthfulness ranking.

“It was very discouraging,” Kopriva said.

The members decided to do something about it and debated whether to create a new program or a “canned” one.

They opted for the latter – picking “Let’s Move” because there was plenty of information online and because it targets more than just children, according to Kopriva.

The work group expects the Blair County Commissioners to provide the required elected-official endorsement.

According to a Let’s Move document, the four “pillar areas” for Let’s Move are:

n Help parents make healthy family choices;

n Create healthy schools;

n Provide access to healthy and affordable food;

n Promote physical activity.

The Northern Blair event on June 21 will feature healthy cooking demonstrations, a farmers’ market, garden designs, a two-mile walk, sack races, Zumba, spinning, yoga, a home run derby, balloon toss, scavenger hunt, blood pressure screenings, tobacco-cessation information and information on mental health.

Group members have thought about how to win over people who can’t afford gym memberships or expensive bikes, or who may not even have a car to go to gatherings of groups for walking or running.

Anyone can get out and walk in their neighborhoods on their own – or in bad weather, exercise in their house, said work group member Maria Brandt.

“It’s free,” Brandt said.

People can also grow vegetables in gardens, which is a less expensive way to obtain some kinds of healthful food, she said.

Among its efforts, the work group should include intercepting people who need to resort to food pantries to help them make wise choices, said Dave Cadle, who is helping to direct the Williamsburg event.

Pedometers will be available there to encourage walking, he said. Consumer demand will play a role in changing this area’s habits, according to Kopriva.

If more people ask for more healthful food choices at stores and in vending machines, businesses will comply, he said.

“Kids being born today can see ‘overweight’ and all the things that come along with that disappear within their lifetimes,” Richard Bishop, director of the Northern Blair County Rec Center, said.