We all make food choices everyday. The question is, how good are these choices? How accessible are the healthy choices such as; whole grains, lean meats, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and low-fat dairy products? Are the healthy choices promoted at home or at retail locations? The fact is, Richland County has one of the highest rates of childhood and adult obesity/overweight in Wisconsin (Strategic Plan). At the time the Strategic Plan was written in 2011, Richland County was ranked at the top of 72 WI counties regarding adult obesity rates and 7th in the state for childhood obesity (WIC data).
CALL TO ACTION
Being overweight is a serious health problem and often leads to other chronic diseases such as; cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Being overweight is hard on people both spiritually and mentally, as well. The simple solution to eat better and be more active is often not that easy, as many experience. Researchers have explored the various reasons individuals have a difficult time sustaining healthy habits once they try to change. What has been discovered is that it may come down mostly to what is happening in the surroundings, the environment.
The Richland FIT coalition recognizes the need to address the serious problem of being overweight and has launched a strategic process to improve the food environment. The Point of Purchase represents one of several FIT strategies ongoing in the county since 2012 when a UW Partnership Program grant was awarded. The idea is to partner with food sellers and servers to create an environment where making the healthy choice is easier. We think that if there were more healthy choices around, people would have an easier time making those choices and the demand would increase. And if those healthy choices were positioned and promoted to sell like other popular items, they would sell. A win for both the environment and the sellers/servers! Working together as a coalition, we aim to get those healthy choices on the table in an attractive way.
POINT OF PURCHASE
Consider all the places to purchase food. Did you know there are over 100 food service and food retail locations in Richland County? These include restaurants, grocery stores, concessions stands, convenience stores and cafeterias. The Point of Purchase strategy ultimately aims to increase the number of people who are looking for nutrient dense, whole and healthy foods and thus change the market demand for these good choices.
The responsibility is largely on those who purchase food but some of the responsibility lies with the community. Research shows when the demand for healthy food is high, the market follows and the choices increase. Buyers can be motivated for a variety of reasons (doctor advice, appearance, fitness, etc…) to seek out good foods, but our responsibility is to work together to make the right choice easier.
PROCESS FOR BETTER HEALTH: RELATIONSHIPS
The Richland FIT coalition aims to fight this disease with a strategy. First of all, we will build relationships with the owners, managers, decision makers, community organization volunteers who conduct fundraisers, and others who make decisions about what is sold. The general public needs to understand that we aren’t trying to take away their Oreos, brats, chips, Skittles, Mountain Dew or any other low quality calories. We just want the good choices to stand out and be available to people who want them. We will rely on our community coalition of partners to navigate the path and we will keep county residents informed of our progress.
Looking forward to sustainable changes at the food stands, restaurants, grocery stores and convenience stores at the right time!
In good health,
Betsy A. Roesler
Health and Wellness Coordinator, Richland County Health and Human Services
Contact us if you would like to be involved in this campaign…we are only just beginning!