An underused resource

Published 10:19 pm Monday, October 18, 2010

Although there is growing evidence that obesity in America has a number of secondary causes, two of the most important primary causes are unarguable. Too much food and too little exercise are widely thought to be the main reasons that Americans are increasingly overweight.

One group, the Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community, has been working to help folks in the city overcome the bad habits that lead to those two contributing factors. After working to get the Western Tidewater Free Clinic off the ground and successful enough to run without input from its parent, the Partnership has turned its sights on how to get Suffolk healthier and therefore less in need of services from the clinic and health care agencies, in general.

During the past couple of years, members have planted the seeds for better eating habits by encouraging the establishment of community gardens and by setting up a Healthy Eating Committee. The gardens, in particular, have been a success, raising awareness among folks in Suffolk about the need for eating vegetables and fruits and avoiding junk food.

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Another project the Partnership has been involved in — Suffolk on the Move — aims to get people off the couch, out from behind the desk and into Suffolk’s parks, onto its jogging trails and into its fitness centers. The idea is that moving around — just about any kind of physical activity, really — helps people burn calories, and therefore helps fight obesity.

The East Suffolk Recreation Center is an underutilized resource in that effort. After opening to great fanfare in a part of the city that lacked public recreational opportunities, the center has become a place that too few members of the community — and hardly any youth — take advantage of, according to speakers at a recent NAACP meeting. The news is especially distressing, because the younger good health habits are learned, the more impact they have on quality of life.

It’s cheap to join the Parks and Recreation Department’s programs — just $10 a year for youth participation in open gym programs and $20 for adults — and adding a fitness membership costs just $10 or less. More folks should do so.

The East Suffolk Recreation Center was justly considered a feather in Suffolk’s cap when its renovations were completed. Since then, however, it has been ignored by vast portions of that community. That won’t help anyone get healthier.