Statistics released by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Robert Wood Foundation are similar to those guiding a Pratt Health Coalition in its efforts to make Pratt a healthier place to live.

The group "represents us all," according to DeWayne Bryan, director of the Pratt Health Foundation. Coalition members come from the Pratt Health Department, the City of Pratt, the school districts, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, Pratt Regional Medical Center, Blythe Family Fitness and other interested individuals.

The coalition was formed more than a year ago, to perform a health assessment that is required by the Affordable Health Care Act — one of the best parts of the act, Bryan believes. The coalition is now in the process of telling people what they have learned.

"We found that we have a lot of opportunities in Pratt, but we just don't have a good way of marketing them," Bryan said. "Getting the word out is part of the challenge."

A Kansas Health Foundation model focuses on four major diseases: diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and chronic respiratory disease, which all share four risk factors: unhealthy diet, inactivity, tobacco and harmful use of alcohol. The local coalition is concentrating efforts on physical activity.

Pratt — and the Midwest in general — hasn't done a very good job of adapting its culture to make healthy choices the easy choices, according to Bryan.

A better sidewalk system would make walking easier.

Bicycle racks downtown would be convenient for folks who travel on two wheels. The coalition is encouraging city leaders to incorporate racks into a proposed sidewalk redesign.

A potential farmers' market at the proposed Main Street Park offers another option for healthy foods.

A community garden is available; to learn more or get involved, contact the Parks Department at Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, 672-5911.

Some communities have convinced restaurants to use smaller plates.

"We've lost the concept of what's an appropriate serving size," Bryan said.

Steamed vegetables are starting to sneak onto menus in some places, and grilled chicken is more available, he said; although noting a "plethora" of fast food restaurants in Pratt, where the franchise governs what will be served.

A "walking school bus" is another idea, where kids would walk to school under the supervision of an adult — maybe a senior citizen who is active or needs encouragement to stay active.

The workday could include an exercise component instead of a coffee break.

"The coalition is looking at all kinds of things to improve the health of the Pratt community," Bryan said. "It's taking us places we didn't know we'd go, and a lot of it is just education."

Portion control key to healthy eating

Perception is everything in life and it apparently plays a role in weight gain, too. It could account for why the United States is in an obesity epidemic, where the number of obese adults has doubled since 1970 to 30 percent of the population and is projected to grow to 65 percent by 2030. Coinciding with this upward trend is a shift in awareness of normal food portions.

If you change your point of reference you can achieve weight loss without counting calories or restricting certain foods, according to James Painter, Ph.D, at Eastern Illinois University and the keynote speaker at the Massachusetts Dietetic Association's annual meeting in March.

Painter said we are not any more stressed or sedentary than we were in the 1970s. What has changed considerably is our food environment. Simply put, "Things are bigger and we are losing track."

In one of his studies on "Losing track" he gave two groups different sized bowls and spoons for an ice cream social and told them to have as many servings as they wanted. Although both groups reported being satisfied afterward, the group with the larger bowls ate twice as much and didn't realize it until the experiment was revealed. The brain visually perceived the portion was right according to the size of the bowl.

GateHouse News Service

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