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Organization aims to improve Aiken County's health

Posted: September 11, 2012 - 12:05am  |  Updated: September 11, 2012 - 12:56pm

Area organizations are hoping that together they can have an impact on the health and well-being of Aiken County.

Eat Smart Move More Aiken County is a coalition of 25 partners including workplaces, faith-based and community organizations, and schools and childcare facilities, said the group’s chairwoman, Theresa Tobin.

“Eat Smart Move More is a movement,” said Tobin. “It is a part of South Carolina’s initiative to promote healthy eating and lifestyles.”

Eat Smart Move More Aiken County is a component of Eat Smart Move More South Carolina.

Representatives from local partners came together Aug. 30 in Aiken at the Rye Patch to talk about the coalition’s accomplishments since it was created last year, and to plan for its future.

Practicing what is preached is important to carrying out the coalition’s mission, said Cherell Butler, director of the Freedman Literacy Program, one of the coalition’s partners.

“Let us also be able to say we’re healthy and exercising in order to promote it,” she told those in attendance.

Corine Simpkins, a health educator with state Department of Health and Environmental Control, discussed the results of a community survey that was conducted last year.

One of the findings was that while 40.4 percent of the survey respondents considered themselves healthy, 53.4 percent thought the overall condition of the community was “somewhat unhealthy.”

The three most important factors for a healthy community are low crime, clean environment and access to healthcare. Slightly more than 59 percent of respondents selected low crime as one of their top three, which surprised some of the meeting’s attendees.

“People can’t be physically active if they are scared of crime,” said Coleman Tanner, the community coordinator for Eat Smart Move More South Carolina.

With this information, the coalition plans to create activities and strategies for moving forward and actively addressing the health concerns and needs of the community, Tobin said.

Additionally, they hope to get more organizations and businesses involved with the coalition in order to really make an impact in the community, she said.

“We need to reach as many people as we can,” she said.

The coalition meets the second Tuesday monthly at 9 a.m. at DHEC’s Aiken office, 222 Beaufort St. Those interested in getting involved should contact Simpkins at (803) 642-1607 or simpkicc@dhec.sc.gov.

HIGHLIGHTS OF COMMUNITY
SURVEY RESULTS

NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS: 500

TOTAL PARTICIPANTS FROM THE 29841 AND 29860 ZIP CODES: About 9.2 percent

• Most participants considered their personal condition as ‘‘healthy”– 40.4 percent. However, 53.4 percent listed their perception of the overall health of the community as “somewhat unhealthy.’’

• The top three personal health concerns of participants were heart disease, aging and diabetes.

• Participants listed the three most common risky behaviors in the Aiken community as being overweight, alcohol and drug abuse, and poor eating habits.

• They said the three most common risky behaviors or bad habits they have are lack of exercise, poor eating habits and being overweight.

• More than 45 percent of participants said they spend from 30 minutes to 2 hours a day watching television, surfing the Internet and/or playing
video games.

Source: Corine Simpkins, health educator with South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control

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