Saturday, June 16, 2001

Taft urges healthy lifestyles

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Ohio residents should get off the couch, stop smoking and start eating their fruits and veggies, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft said during a speech this week.

        During Thursday's annual meeting of the Greater Cincinnati Health Council, he urged employers, schools and health organizations to support a statewide health program called “Healthy Ohioans, Healthy Communities.”

Gov. Taft
        Ohio has the nation's second-highest adult smoking rate, and it ranks 32nd in time spent exercising and 47th in consumption of fruits and vegetables. No wonder Ohio has the nation's fourth-highest death rate from diabetes, eighth-highest from heart disease and 13th-highest from cancer, he said.

        “These numbers are dismal and we are paying a price for them,” Mr. Taft said.

        The statewide health program encourages schools to promote exercise among children, employers to launch employee wellness programs and state workers to improve their fitness.

        Ohio has set aside $1.3 billion over 12 years from the nationwide tobacco lawsuit settlement for anti-smoking efforts, but officials have not decided the best way to spend the money, Mr. Taft said.

        Health advocates say Ohio can do more with legislation. For instance, 46 states require insurers to cover all diabetes supplies, but Ohio does not, said Alice Ulmer, of the American Diabetes Association's local chapter.

        “We started (proposing legislation) in 1992 and have never been able to get anywhere with it. Now we're down to just Alabama, Idaho, North Dakota and Ohio,” Mrs. Ulmer said.


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