Boone County survey shows desire for healthy living

Wednesday, July 8, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 9:54 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 8, 2009

COLUMBIA — Results from the Boone County Healthy Lifestyle Survey shows a community desiring a healthy change but feeling it lacks the needed resources.

The survey, launched by the Columbia/Boone County Health Department and MU Extension’s Healthy Lifestyle Initiative, questioned 1,510 adults and 824 children about their eating and exercising habits.

The survey revealed that a majority of respondents said they are trying to improve food choices and increase physical activity but that they need more from the city of Columbia to do so.

Almost 41 percent of respondents said they would be more active if there were safe, clean parks and trails with lights after dark, and about 35 percent desire better sidewalks and personal fitness services such as trainers.

Health Department educator Stacia Reilly said she thinks these results are not because of an actual lack of resources but instead because of a lack of knowledge of available resources.

“Columbia already has a lot of amenities, like wonderful parks and trail systems, so we may need to educate them on where they are,” Reilly said.

When it comes to food, 73.5 percent of respondents said healthy produce is unreasonably priced, which hinders people from eating well.

Vera Massey, nutrition and health education specialist with MU Extension in Boone County, said not everyone has an equal opportunity to eat healthy foods.

“Providing fresh fruits and vegetables is a challenge, because the options for those who have more income are greater than those who have lower incomes,” Massey said. “We need to provide access to everyone.”

The health of children was also addressed, revealing that parents who don’t model healthy behavior can contribute to the poor health of their children.

While many children look to their parents for their eating habits, 45 percent also show an interest in learning how to cook. Massey said they will still depend on their parents for this.

“Teaching kids how to cook will help, but they don’t purchase the food, and so they can’t prepare the foods they don’t have,” Massey said. “If adults find it challenging to eat a variety of foods and be physically active, then it is going to be hard for our kids to do any different."

Additional information from the survey results includes:

-61.2 percent of children would be more physically active if they joined a sports team, while more than half would like more recess time or physical education at school.

-Only 34 percent of adults and 7.6 percent of children said they have been told to be more active or to eat healthier by their doctors.

-66.7 percent of respondents said they are improving their lives through eating healthy food, while 63 percent said they are using physical activity.

-83.9 percent of respondents said they are willing to support local school and government development policies, such as changing cafeteria food or increasing sales tax for parks and recreational environments.

Massey said all these results will lead to new approaches in the future, but not until they are shared with all the interested organizations and more in-depth information is gathered.

 “We want to help make the healthy choice the easy choice, and getting information from the people gives us some guidance on what we need to do,” Massey said.

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