Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The F Word

America is the fattest country in the world, and deciphering how public lands can support a solution to this sad and daunting statistic is the topic of Partners Outdoors 2011. Partners Outdoors is a collection of leaders from land management agencies such as the National Park Service, National Association of State Park Directors, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and others. It also hosts private sector and NGO partners including groups like Bass Pro Shops, BlueCross Blue Shield, National Wildlife Federation and the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.

Speakers and panels have batted around staggering statistics:
• One in four Americans is morbidly obese.
• 27% of adults who are eligible for military service cannot join because they are too overweight.
• Children spend over 7 hours a day using technology.
• A 5% decrease in the use of state parks last year was documented.

Further, Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., the VP and Chief Medical Officer of BlueCross BlueShield sited the following research regarding Americans perceptions about the outdoors:

• There are physical but not cognitive and emotional benefits to being outside.
• Parents have great concerns about safety in the outdoors.
• There is little modeling, mentoring and storytelling regarding the outdoors
• Younger parents have little belief or interest in the relevance of the outdoors in rearing their children.

The healthcare industry’s role is central to any traction that links healthy people to the outdoors, and healthcare representatives talked today about shifting the national conversation from accountable care to accountable health. The meeting’s goal is to make an action plan to bring public lands into the fold of national healthy lifestyle campaigns.

Leave No Trace comes into active play in any conversation that involves increasing participation on public lands. Let’s hope that this initiative has the legs to impact Americans’ health while supporting visitation on public lands. Leave No Trace, as always, is ready with programs and education to support it.

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