Health

Shannon’s Window: An investment we can live with

Medical science is finally catching up with the wisdom mothers have been doling out for decades.

Each your vegetables. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Don’t ride when you can walk.

Those and the other bon mots from mom are good for you — and science is backing them up.

A study published earlier this year in the International Journal of Epidemiology and written about this week in The New York Times and elsewhere, takes on the idea you can be overweight and fit.

The study, conducted on more than 1 million Swedish men between 1969 and 1996, focuses on the link between low aerobic fitness and early cause of death.

The study concluded that the increased risk of death from having low aerobic fitness was equivalent to the increased risk level from abusing drugs and alcohol.

That’s a risk we in the Pensacola metro area know all too well. The rate of adults who are overweight or obese is 60 percent, according to data from the Florida Department of Health.

DASH card_Obesity rate_12-22_2015That data is part of the Studer community Institute’s Pensacola Metro Dashboard, a set of 16 metrics, compiled with the University of West Florida, to gauge the educational, economic and social well-being of the community.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation tracks the public health of communities based on a series of health outcomes, risk factors and demographic data.

Escambia ranks 59th out of 67th counties in Florida on those metrics overall.

Part of the Foundation’s evaluation is based on health behaviors — the choices we make about what we eat, if we exercise, if we drink to excess, if we smoke.

Based on what the data says about how many of make those choices, we as  a community are in danger of going through life just the way Dean Wormer in “Animal House” warned Flounder he’d end up.

But we can change that.

We are making small steps toward creating a public culture that encourages better health choices — and more access to the things that can help make those choices easier.

We are making fitness a centerpiece of our downtown renaissance with a $15 million YMCA, which will include wellness facilities run by Baptist Healthcare and the Andrews Institute.

Palafox Market is helping expand the reach of fresh food through a partnership with the Slow Food Gulf Coast to help SNAP dollars go farther at the weekly market.

Our Rotarians used an IMPACT 100 grant to make a beautiful, engaging playground a centerpiece of the Community Maritime Park.

The Rotary Centennial Playground at the Community Maritime Park in downtown Pensacola. Photo credit: Shannon Nickinson

The Rotary Centennial Playground at the Community Maritime Park in downtown Pensacola. Photo credit: Shannon Nickinson

The waterfront park will be the site of a series of free public events, starting Jan. 9, designed to inspire a fit mindset in the community for the new year.

Here’s hoping we view it as more than just a twist on the new year’s resolution to make each year a chance for a new start.

What it could be is an economic development investment.

Consider this — Escambia and Santa Rosa business owners are losing $800 million a year to the health expenses of smoking and obesity, according to the Partnership for a Healthy Community.

As mom would say, that’s throwing good money after bad.