OGDEN -- A task force is looking for help from the community as it combats a growing health threat.
"We are sitting on one of the biggest health issues that is going to happen in the next century," committee member Sandy Crosland said.
The health issue is not cancer or a new strain of flu -- it is obesity, and the committee is trying to help stop the expanding waistlines by promoting health, nutrition and exercise in Weber County.
The obesity task force is one of three branches of the Weber Coalition for a Healthy Community, along with NuHope, which focuses on suicide prevention, and Healthy Moms, which focuses on mothers with substance abuse issues.
It meets once a month at United Way of Northern Utah offices, 2955 Harrison Blvd.
For the past few years, the task force worked on creating a guide. In its latest incarnation, the task force is working to take an active role in solving the problem of obesity and putting the guide into action.
"Now we're working on everything we talked about," Chairwoman Di Sedgwick said.
Under the working title "Healthy Lifestyles," the task force has expanded its focus to include adults and senior citizens. It is now working to proactively face what some have called the obesity epidemic.
To do so, the task force is working to have school districts, hospitals and clinics, local government, universities and nonprofit organizations, such as United Way and the GOAL Foundation, work together.
With their help, the task force members say it will help make the community aware of proven methods and ideas already available. It is just a matter of connecting with the community and getting the right players involved.
"We need to be a clearinghouse for what physicians say we need to do, and the community," Crosland said. "Weber County doesn't have to reinvent the wheel. The kind of services are out there for what needs to be done."
Currently, the task force promotes initiatives to introduce fresh fruit to children through the schools, as well as access to farmers markets to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.
For the future, the task force sees a need to provide healthy snacks for children after school and to make it easier for senior citizens to walk to the grocery store.
"That's what we have to do, make it easier to be healthy than it is to be unhealthy," said Ogden Regional Medical Center dietitian Jennifer James.
Because of the area's large Latino population, Sedgwick said, all the materials are being translated into Spanish to further communication with all segments of the population.
The task force brought in Nancy Diaz to translate all of its materials and has worked with the Utah State University Extension Office to get out more information in Spanish as well.
Before it spreads its message to the community, the task force wants to establish its brand, including a new logo, letterhead and name.
At this time, the committee has no budget. It hopes more community involvement and expertise will help the task force work with what is available, including help with marketing and graphic design. Sedgwick said:
"We're doing this, and we want the support of the community."
Obesity in Utah
The percentage of obese children has more than doubled since the 1960s. In 2008, 21.5 percent of elementary school-aged children were overweight. The number of Utah public high school students who are overweight (14,200) is enough to fill 410 classrooms. Recent data also shows that more than 58 percent of Utah adults are overweight or obese. How does being overweight affect health?
* Children who are overweight are at an increased risk of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and various cancers. * Type 2 diabetes -- once believed to occur only in adults -- is now being diagnosed among children as young as 2 years old. * 61 percent of overweight 5- to 10-year-olds already have at least one risk factor for heart disease, and 26 percent have two or more risk factors. * Overweight children are often the targets of social stigma, bullying and teasing, which frequently leads to poor school performance and mental health issues. * Overweight children are more likely to become obese as adults.
* Overweight adults are at an increased risk of hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, arthritis, sleep apnea and respiratory problems and some cancers.