Healthier Communities

The Center for Rural Affairs offers a new report that examines ways to promote healthy living in rural communities.

| September 11, 2009

  • Family time and walking are ways to make a healthy ommunity.
    Family time and walking are ways to create a healthy community. Levstek

  • Family time and walking are ways to make a healthy ommunity.

Lyons, Nebraska – The Center for Rural Affairs recently released a report, “Healthy Communities–Healthy People” that examines what rural people, families, businesses and communities can do to reverse trends showing rural people, on average, eat less nutritious food, get less physical activity, and are more often obese than their urban counterparts.

Federal policy can assist rural Americans to create healthier lifestyles by funding community initiatives to create, improve, or maintain an infrastructure that encourages preventative behaviors like eating right and exercising. However, many rural communities lack the resources for full-time staff to seek out federal grants, and, as a result, miss out on public funding because they are unaware of opportunities.

"Rural people know that disease and disability are likely to be the end result of a lifestyle of poor eating and insufficient exercise, leading to obesity," says Julia Hudson, author of the report and a health policy intern with the Rural Research and Analysis Program at the Center for Rural Affairs. "However, it is unreasonable to expect that people will change their behavior while immersed in an environment that begs them to stay the same."

Health care reform legislation now being debated in Congress can also help make individuals, families and communities healthier by encouraging community-based initiatives, says Jon Bailey, dDirector of the Center for Rural Affairs Rural Research and Analysis Program.

"One of the disappointing aspects of the health care reform debate has been the total lack of discussion on what individuals, families and communities can do to promote healthy living and prevent the vast majority of diseases and conditions that drive up health care costs for everyone. Creating a healthier society through wellness and prevention should be one of the ultimate goals of reform legislation," Bailey says. "What is needed is encouragement, assistance and commitment to make healthier people and communities. That should be one of the goals of federal health care legislation – providing tools to individuals, families and communities to design local health promotion initiatives."

A full copy of the report can be viewed and downloaded at the center’s website.

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