Health advice comes from all directions – doctors, media, friends, school, work. Sometimes, said Emily Fleury, a director at Inland Northwest Health Services, we get so much advice about staying healthy – and sometimes seemingly conflicting advice – that many people file it in their minds as junk mail. They ignore it all.
That’s why INHS and other organizations behind the 2-year-old Step Up and Go program created a program that distills eating and exercise advice into easy-to-digest bites. The 85210 program offers five daily guidelines – one per digit – for preventing obesity.
Mostly in its beginning stages, 85210 is making a few appearances – on TV spots, on posters on workplace billboards, in a proclamation by Spokane Mayor David Condon last month that fall 2012 is “Step Up and Go for ‘85210’ season.” Organizers plan to spread the message throughout the community, targeting day cares and schools, work sites and health care facilities.
“Somebody that’s trying to prevent heart disease is going to tell you something different than somebody that’s trying to prevent cancer, and they’re going to tell you something different from somebody who’s trying to prevent diabetes,” Fleury said. “But really they’re all speaking the same message. They want you to improve your nutrition, they want you increase your exercise.”
The program places Spokane among more and more communities nationwide where health advocates are working to create and disseminate simplified, streamlined information about obesity prevention, Fleury said. The 85210 program is based on a childhood-obesity prevention program in Portland, Maine, among the oldest efforts of its kind and one that’s been proven to improve residents’ body-mass indexes, a standard measure of obesity.
The trend stems partly from financial shrewdness among nonprofit organizations and others aiming to educate residents and reduce obesity – they’re putting their “little pockets of money” together to create a unified message, Fleury said.
It’s also born from a belief among health advocates that when the same easy-to-follow advice comes from multiple sources, people are more likely to incorporate it into their lives. The 85210 program focuses on five aspects of daily life: sleep, diet, recreational screen time, exercise and sugary drinks.
In the next two years, the program will focus on children. Part of that effort: working with other organizations to provide training and other resources for day care facilities in Spokane County and five surrounding counties. Those efforts will be funded by a $930,000 federal grant.
The 85210 program is the newest campaign by Step Up and Go, an obesity-prevention group founded in 2010 as Step Up Spokane.
It changed its name to include people from elsewhere in the region, said Dr. Hal Goldberg, a Spokane cardiologist and the group’s founder. Step Up and Go is run out of INHS offices but also has backing from Premera Blue Cross, Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and others.
Step Up and Go serves as a central resource for local fitness-related events and health information, Goldberg said. But it’s also supposed to hold up a mirror to the community: Two-thirds of Spokane County residents are overweight or obese, reflecting national rates.
When you’re overweight but see that lots of other people are, too, you might figure you’re OK, Goldberg said. There’s no motivation to change.
“Well, if this is the norm, it’s not a healthy norm,” Goldberg said.
In 2009, nearly 29 percent of Spokane County residents were obese, based on their body-mass index. Another 35 percent were considered overweight.
“As trends go, people in the overweight category keep going up,” Fleury said. “People who are in healthy category tend to stay there, people who are overweight and people who are in the really obese category tend to go up as well. We want to change that.”