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MU Extension initiative brings Oregon County groups together to address health issues


Eileen Yager
MU Extension Web Publishing Team
Phone: 573-882-0604

Published: Monday, Feb. 22, 2010

Story sources:

Gary Cross, 417-778-7490Cammie Younger, 573-323-4418

ALTON, Mo. –University of Missouri Extension and representatives of local organizations will meet March 15 to discuss the Healthy Lifestyle Initiative in Oregon County.

The statewide extension initiative takes a whole-community approach to improving the health of citizens by increasing access to fresh produce and physical activities.

What is different about this initiative is the focus on policy and environment changes that encourage residents to make healthy choices.

“Policy and environment changes are sustainable because once those changes are made they become the norm,” said Ann Cohen, associate state nutrition specialist and co-director of the MU-based initiative.

Oregon County residents have good reason to consider change. Older residents have higher rates of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, according to the Missouri Senior Report. This group also has a lower rate of screening for breast and colon cancer.

The county also has almost twice the number of children living in poverty than the state average, as reported in Kids Count. Births by teens, 15 to 19, are 56.7 percent compared with 41.7 percent statewide.

The Healthy Lifestyle Initiative brings together all aspects of the community to make changes. Organizations working with MU Extension include the Oregon County Health Department; the farmers market; Ozark Action Inc.; and the Alton, Couch, Koshkonong and Thayer schools.

Cammie Younger, MU Extension nutrition and health education specialist, said being part of the statewide organization will provide “research-based information, experiences and successes from other communities, as well as information on what doesn’t work.”

To get involved with the Healthy Lifestyle Initiative, contact MU Extension in Oregon County at 417-778-7490.