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Other Opinions: Invest $10 a person for better health

Investing just $10 a person could eventually make great gains in improving the health of Americans and in cutting health care costs by more than $16 billion a year, according to a new analysis by the non-profit Trust for America's Health and a team of public-health research groups.

The investment would be used to teach Americans better health habits, according to an Associated Press report Thursday on the analysis. Our $2 trillion a year health care bill is fueled by obesity stemming from poor nutrition and inactivity and by smoking. They contribute to chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and lung diseases.

Doing small things can make big improvements, the AP report said. Walking 30 minutes a day and dropping 15 pounds can cut in half the risk of diabetes.

Investing $10 a person into community programs that teach good health habits can do more in preventive care and saving long-term costs in dealing with chronic diseases, Trust for America's Health says. After-school programs that teach healthy snacking and physical activity, to eat more fresh fruits and less candy, and exercise more and watch less TV, all pay off in the long run.

Beltrami County commissioners learned this week that the Beltrami County Extension Service's nutrition education program hopes to do just that, teach child care providers under a Blue Cross Blue Shield "Growing Up Healthy" program. The service is already in some schools that meet poverty-level eligibility to talk about good nutrition. Such programs should be expanded to all schools and more grades, instructing both good eating habits and physical activity.

Earlier this week, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that while 90 percent of 9-year-olds get a couple of hours of exercise most days, fewer than 3 percent of 15-year-olds do. The study suggests a huge gap when young kids who spend time playing and running around reach their early teens, they stop and pick up other priorities such as sitting for hours at the computer or text-messaging.

Our technology has moved us far up the scale as an intellectual society, but those time-saving and labor-saving devices and methods are also turning us into an overweight and physically challenged society of couch potatoes.

Rising rates of childhood obesity can only lead to a greater number of adults with high blood pressure and higher risks of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases.

It only underscores Thursday's report, that for a small investment we can start to turn that trend around. We often don't like to be told what to eat or that we need to run around the block, but we can all benefit from an education program that can lay out simple ways to improve our health. -- Bemidji Pioneer