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Allegheny County begins wellness campaign

| Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, 1:12 p.m.

Pennsylvania's collective waistline is growing by the year.

Allegheny County officials on Tuesday said they aim to reverse that trend with the introduction of a new Live Well Allegheny wellness program.

“It's about making our community and Allegheny County the healthiest community in the country,” County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said at the PNC YMCA, Downtown, surrounded by dozens of people working out on their lunch breaks. “Some of the stats that have come out regarding our state ... haven't been good, so it's our initiative to make things better.”

Fitzgerald recently lost about 30 pounds by “eating healthy snacks, watching portions, walking more and exercising more,” spokeswoman Amie Downs said.

The obesity rate in Pennsylvania stands at 29 percent and is increasing faster than the national average, the Health Department director Dr. Karen Hacker, said. Across the nation, roughly 36 percent of adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Allegheny County, 62 percent of adults are obese or overweight, she said. Men are more likely to be obese or overweight than women, she said. Adults are considered overweight or obese depending on their body mass index, a widely used way to measure body fat based on height and weight. People with a body mass index between 25 and 29.9 are considered overweight, while those with a body mass index higher than 30 are considered obese.

“Clearly, we've got work to do,” said Hacker, who wants to encourage people to eat healthier foods and exercise more.

Live Well Allegheny will organize, host and promote healthy activities such as community walks and runs. Officials will create an anti-obesity campaign by studying obesity data and providing resources on healthy lifestyle choices.

Joylette Portlock, a member of the Board of Health, said the program will promote overall community health, including the local food movement and open green spaces. It will be a “multiyear program” that will adapt to trends and areas of need, she said.

“This is not simply about counting calories,” Portlock said. “It's about strengthening our community by creating partnerships.”

A website will soon be available at www.livewellallegheny.com. The site will serve as an online bulletin board announcing local events, providing health tips and promoting healthy resources, Fitzgerald said.

Chris Togneri is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5632 or ctogneri@tribweb.com.

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