BLOOMINGTON — A recipe for a healthier McLean County — including more community vegetable gardens, assessing the fitness of all students, improving sidewalks and encouraging workplace wellness — was endorsed Thursday by a broad-based coalition.

The next step is to work with health officials, government leaders, educators and employers to put the plans into effect.

Because the McLean County Wellness Coalition included representatives of each area, the strategic plan endorsed at the coalition’s meeting at the county health department shouldn’t come as a surprise, said coalition co-Chairwomen Jackie Lanier of the health department and Julie Schumacher of Illinois State University. But Lanier admitted some objectives may take years to put into effect.

Rising obesity rates have put people at higher risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Reducing obesity and chronic disease would help families, reduce health care costs and result in a healthier county, the coalition believes.

“Our vision is to make the healthy choice, the easy choice,” Schumacher said.

Coalition research found that 61.5 percent of McLean County adults and 16.2 percent of youth are overweight or obese, 39.7 percent of county adults are physically active for 30 minutes at least five times a week, 55 percent of county youths are physically active at least 60 minutes for fewer than five days a week and 13.7 percent of adults and 19.3 percent of youths eat five or more fruits and vegetables a day.

Coalition goals include reducing overweight and obesity rates by 5 percentage points by 2016, increasing physical activity rates by 5 percentage points by 2016 and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption to five times a day by 2 percentage points by 2016.

Coalition objectives include city zoning codes calling for community vegetable gardens, promoting farmers markets, pushing for snow removal on Constitution Trail, improving sidewalks to promote walking and bicycling, making sure all schools assess student fitness and integrate nutrition education into curriculums, promoting healthier food options in schools, working with businesses to develop employee wellness programs and encouraging businesses to subsidize memberships to fitness clubs or classes.

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