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Challenging Huntsville to Get Healthy
Healthy Huntsville Initiative Aims to Fight Obesity and Diabetes


City of Huntsville January 20, 2012

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- The Healthy Huntsville 2012 Initiative kicked off a new four month program today to encourage citizens to adopt healthy lifestyles. The goal is to change the way Huntsville citizens eat and exercise and to reduce the rising rates of obesity and diabetes in our community.

Leading the challenge are the City of Huntsville, HudsonAlpha, Huntsville Hospital, Star Market, Fleet Feet, Sterling Health and Regions Bank. The organizations are working together to provide a series of programs and activities that will help educate and train the community to live a healthier life.

The Healthy Huntsville initiative focuses on the core concepts of nutrition and exercise to encourage local residents to embrace healthy lifestyles. The team's new website, healthyhuntsville2012.com, provides a one-stop location to find upcoming walks and runs, nutrition and fitness tips, parks and trail maps, healthy recipes, coupon clipping guides and more. The initiative will feature a 5K walk/run at HudsonAlpha's McMillian Park in April followed by the Mayor's Bike Ride in May.

Alabama is the second most obese state in the country with a rate that exceeds 30 percent, more than double its number 15 years ago. Directly related to obesity is the rising rate of type 2 diabetes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, type 2 diabetes accounts for more than 90 percent of diabetes cases and is typically associated with lifestyle decisions. "Healthy food choices, physical activity and weight loss are steps toward controlling and even preventing type 2 diabetes," noted Neil Lamb, Ph.D., director of educational outreach for HudsonAlpha. Scientists at HudsonAlpha are researching both obesity and diabetes-type 2 diabetes, as well as juvenile diabetes-- toward helping patients live healthier, happier lives.

"Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in Alabama, and we are out to change that," said Mayor Tommy Battle. "It takes time, but a lot can happen in four months. A person can lose 10 or 15 pounds, they can begin to make better food choices, and they can get off that couch."

According to Battle, Huntsville can no longer afford to ignore the impact that obesity has on the quality of our lives and our health care spending.

"As fast as the rates of obesity and diabetes are rising, it is frightening to think what the next 15 years will look like if we don't make some serious changes in the way we diet and exercise," said David Spillers, CEO Huntsville Hospital.

Today's Healthy Huntsville kickoff is timed to coincide with the beginning of Scale Back Alabama's 10- week weight loss program. Weigh-in begins tomorrow, January 21. Numerous public weigh-in sites are available in Madison County, including Huntsville Hospital Wellness Centers.

"Since food is such an integral part of everyone's life, knowing how to make healthy food choices is integral to a healthier lifestyle." said Darden Heritage, president of Star Market and Pharmacy. "We're excited to offer such classes as Healthy Eating and Cooking the Healthy Way.

Fleet Feet Sports owner Dink Taylor will also be pounding the pavement throughout the next four months, demonstrating how running and walking can help lose pounds and provide a sense of well being. "Our goal is to get people healthy and moving. This is an excellent opportunity for the community to come together to make a difference in peoples lives," said Taylor "Let's get moving!"

Sterling Health is developing an extended calendar to take the initiative into the summer with additional cooking demonstrations, games and activities.

"We want to be the catalyst for change and to show our citizens that there is a better way," said Mayor Battle. "We already know that Huntsville is one of the smartest places to live in the country. If we can raise awareness about the serious health risk that obesity has on the quality and longevity of our lives and how easily those extra pounds can lead to diabetes, then we can also make Huntsville one of the fittest places."

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For more information, contact:

Kelly Cooper Schrimsher, - Director of Communications, Office of the Mayor, City of Huntsville, 256-427-5006 (w), kelly.schrimsher@huntsvilleal.gov

Holly Ralston, - Director of Communications, HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, 256-327-0425 (w), hralston@hudsonalpha.com

Cheryl Davis, - Director of Marketing and Physician Relations, Huntsville Hospital, 256-265-8317 (w), Cheryl.davis@hhsys.org

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