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Gov. Haslam announces new statewide health initiative

8:15 PM, Aug 6, 2013   |    comments
Gov. Bill Haslam
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By Nichole Manna / Gannett Tennessee

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam was at the Lift Health and Wellness Center in Jackson on Tuesday to launch the "Healthier Tennessee" initiative.

The "Healthier Tennessee" initiative is under The Governor's Foundation for Health and Wellness and was made to encourage Tennesseans to become more physically active, to eat healthier foods in healthy portions and to not use tobacco products.

Haslam said he'd like to see people being physically active for at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week.

According to a study released on Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity rates in children aged two to four rose in Tennessee from 2008 to 2011.

Haslam said the intiative will allow Tennessee to do its own study. "We know from clinical research and real-world experience that there are effective ways to change behaviors and create healthy habits and we believe programs and tools to do that have to be evidence-based, so we will be very focused on measuring results and reporting them regularly," he said.

Rick Johnson, who will be the president and chief executive officer of the foundation, said they will be measuring results in a number of ways. "We're going to measure awareness...(citizens) engagement, then behavior changes, how people are getting regular exercise, eating healthier foods and not using tobacco," Johnson said.

The governor said he understands results won't improve instantly. "These efforts have to be locally owned and implemented and that success won't happen overnight," he said in a news release. "If ever the phrase 'this is a marathon, not a sprint,' fits a situation, it sure does here, in more ways than one."

To get people motivated in participating, Johnson said they'll be working with community businesses, churches and schools to help citizens get involved. "We're going to let people know that it's obviously not easy, but there is a pathway to do this," Haslam said. "We're going to let people know about specific ways to do that."

The initiative, Haslam said, will bring together major employers, hospital systems, health insurers, YMCAs, local governments, school systems and several healthcare-focused foundations and civic organizations to help motive their citizens, employees and students.

"Healthier Tennessee" will include a rewards and recognition program for participation and achievement, including awards from the governor, a certification program for schools, workplaces, communities and faith-based organizations and opportunities for competition among them.

The creation of the Governor's Foundation for Health and Wellness and the launch of the Healthier Tennessee initiative are results of the work started by the Governor's Health and Wellness Task Force that was appointed in 2011.

The foundation has a board of directors including top executives from the private and public sectors. Funding for the initiative was made mainly by private sectors, who gave more than $6 million collectively.

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