Editorial

State training putting Arkansans back to work

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The first week of April is Public Health Week in Arkansas. Its purpose is to help Arkansans live healthier lives by working to prevent illness and enhance overall health and well-being. It may seem obvious to say, but there is definitely a strong connection between your general health and your overall quality of life. I am encouraged that we can become a healthier Arkansas, starting today.

You may have heard the term "chronic disease," but you may not know that half of Arkansas adults are living with at least one such condition. These people struggle every day with illnesses that lasts a very long time, illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, lung conditions, HIV, or mental-health disorders. Most of those people can't be cured, but must learn to manage and cope with the effects of their illness. Today in Arkansas, seven out of every ten deaths result from chronic diseases. However, most of those diseases are preventable.

If you look at chronic diseases in Arkansans you will find that tobacco use, obesity and physical inactivity are among the primary causes.

Tobacco use has been our biggest problem for many years. It is the leading cause of heart disease, stroke and cancer. We have made significant improvements in the rates of smoking in Arkansas. Four out of every five adults in Arkansas don't smoke today and those who do have a hard time quitting, even though many would like to quit.

As for our diets, we often eat more of the foods we don't need, and many people don't have convenient access to affordable, healthy foods that we do need.

And on the whole, we don't lead very active lives. We watch too much TV, and spend too much time in front of a computer screen. We need more safe places to walk, ride bikes or play. Cities and towns in Arkansas have made progress in building walking and biking trails, but more people need to be using the parks and trails we have.

But there is also some great news. We are making progress in Arkansas. Educators know that a healthy, active child is more likely to score higher on tests, miss less school and have fewer behavioral problems. As a result, schools are now providing healthier meals and many are working to provide more of the physical activity our kids need during the day. Mayors across the state are creating an environment where the healthy choice is the easy choice in their communities. Businesses throughout Arkansas understand that healthy employees are more productive, and many companies have developed worksite wellness programs.

I urge you today to think of a few small changes that you can make that will have real positive effects on your health. Get a friend to be your exercise partner and do something physically active every day - go for a walk, run, ride a bike or play sports. Find something you love to do and do it regularly. Replace sugary beverages with water or low-fat milk and avoid fatty, fried foods. Make the habit of reaching for a piece of fruit or a glass of water instead of a bag of chips or cookies. Reduce the amount of time you spend in front of a computer screen or television and make the time you do spend count by visiting sites like letsmove.gov and myplate.gov for tips and advice on being more active and eating healthier.

If you use tobacco, you really can quit. I know this is tough, but tobacco is a very high-risk gamble and the odds are definitely stacked against you. I promise you will feel remarkably better if you can beat the addiction of tobacco. Ask your doctor for help or visit the Health Department quit line. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for assistance. Millions of people have successfully stopped smoking, and you can, too.

We have proven many times that Arkansans are resourceful and when we work together to achieve something important, we can get it done. Let's work together now to make Arkansas a healthy and productive place to live and work.