Two local health coaches organized a walk to bring awareness to the childhood obesity epidemic

by: PHOTO BY HOLLY LEFEVRE - Front row:  left to right:  Max LeFevre (blue shirt), Avery LeFevre, Sam LeFevre; Back row:  left to right: Quinn Polen (red shirt), Lara Polen, Reece Polen, Kyle Knudtson, Jackson Polen, Holly LeFevre.

On Thursday, Sept. 12, more than 2,100 children, parents, and teachers walked and ran more than 2,600 miles in Crook County to bring awareness to the growing problem of childhood obesity.

Organized by two local health coaches, Lara Polen and Holly LeFevre, the walking event was a local effort to get both children and adults moving toward healthier lifestyles.

“Although we didn’t meet our original goal of 3,300 total miles, we are pretty ecstatic about meeting our ultimate goal of getting people in the community to take notice of the important issue of childhood obesity,” said LeFevre.

President Barack Obama declared September 2013 to be National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and wants Americans to get involved in promoting healthy eating and physical activity for children nationwide.

“During National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, let us build on this momentum and strengthen the trend toward healthier lifestyles and brighter futures for our Nation’s children,” the President said in a proclamation released August, 2013.

Obesity affects millions of American children and teenagers, putting them at risk for serious health issues, such as diabetes, cancer, asthma, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

The Crook County Public Health Department’s (CCPHD) Health Impact Assessment for May 2011 reported that since 1990, obesity rates have doubled for adults in Oregon and tripled for children. Data from the 2004-2007 BRFSS (Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System) stated that 39.1 percent of Crook County adults reported being overweight and 23.6 percent reported being obese.

The CCPHD also reported that the leading causes of adult death in Crook County are cancer and heart disease — chronic conditions resulting largely from individual behavior choices and are primarily related to three behaviors, tobacco use, physical inactivity, and poor nutrition.

Polen and LeFevre both have young children and feel strongly that children and adults in Crook County will benefit from healthier lifestyles.

Both are Certified Health Coaches with the “Take Shape For Life” (TSFL) program, a division of Medifast, Inc., which develops, manufactures, and markets portion-controlled, nutritionally-balanced meal replacements for weight loss.

Recently, TSFL asked all its health coaches to come up with local ideas to promote National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. The company sponsored a country-wide initiative called “Walk Across America” and wanted to take the program down to local levels where their coaches could help spread the word.

Polen and LeFevre immediately felt a public walking event involving all the schools in Crook County would be a great idea.

“I went and talked with Cheri Rasmussen, the Principal at Crooked River Elementary, about a walking event. She got excited and jumped right on board,” said Polen.

“I always get excited about things that involve children and their families, particularly things that get our kiddos moving and away from sedentary activities. And it was a great way to kick off the school year,” said Rasmussen, Principal at Crooked River Elementary School.

Now motivated and excited herself, Polen took the event idea to other schools in the district.

“And all the other schools in the district loved the idea too.”

The momentum built quickly and Polen and LeFevre got to work organizing and promoting the event.

“We mapped-out a one-mile walking course downtown for everyone that was close to the downtown core. And for those people not close to downtown all they had to do was walk or run at their school or in their neighborhood,” said LeFevre.

Logging and tracking miles individually walked and run was accomplished both at the downtown walking course kiosk and at several downtown business partners. These included the Prineville Athletic Club, Norm’s Xtreme Fitness, the Prineville Coffee Company, and the Meadow Lakes Golf Course.

“Each walker or runner who logged their miles received a bright green sticker that stated ‘I Walked a Mile Today to Fight Childhood Obesity.’ We encouraged people to wear them all day long to promote awareness of the problem and the fact that they participated,” said Polen.

Although Polen and LeFevre had less than two weeks to organize and promote the event they feel the number of participants and regional awareness was worth the effort. And they plan to do it again next year.

“Having 2,100 people show their support by getting physically active set a great example for the children of Crook County. Next year we hope to hold a 2nd Annual “Walk Across America” with additional partners, more time for planning, preparation and outreach,” said LeFevre.

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