Pharos-Tribune

Opinion

June 5, 2014

THEIR VIEW: Hoosiers' poor health takes a heavy toll

The numbers, year after year, are discouraging.

In 2013, Indianapolis ranked a sorrowful 45th out of the nation’s 50 largest cities in terms of residents’ physical fitness, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. This year, the Indy-based organization’s newly released American Fitness Index pegs our city as a lowly 47th in the nation.

Despite all the time, money and attention poured into efforts to improve Hoosiers’ health, we’re still losing ground. And gaining weight. And failing far too often to eat right or get enough exercise.

The bad news gets even worse because the Fitness Index isn’t an outlier. United Health Foundation’s annual rankings on states’ overall health placed Indiana at 41st among the 50 states last year. Indiana landed in the same lowly spot in 2012.

Indy, we have a problem. Actually, multiple problems.

Of the College of Sports Medicine’s 15 fitness categories, Indianapolis rated below average on 14. The one exception was in diabetes-related deaths.

Enough discouragement, for now. Because there actually are several hopeful signs pointing to a better, healthier future for more Hoosiers.

Start with the rapid growth of biking in the city and the addition of miles of bike lanes and trails. Add the increase in farmers markets and other outlets for healthier food.

And factor in the still-emerging work of two major community-based initiatives. The first, Jump IN for Healthy Kids, is a recently launched campaign to reduce child obesity in Central Indiana. It’s already brought together top business, government, nonprofit and academic leaders and organizations — including Eli Lilly, Roche Diagnostics, the Colts, the Pacers and The Star — with plans to set aggressive, measurable goals for improving children’s health and fitness.

The second is the YMCA-led Top 10 by 2025 initiative, which has championed better mass transit, tougher smoking laws and a local ordinance that gives priority to trails and sidewalk construction as part of road improvements. The campaign has set an aggressive goal — to get Indy ranked in the Fitness Index’s top 10 cities list by 2025.

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