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Survey on behaviors affecting Kauai’s fitness finds island’s residents could do better

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Posted: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 12:15 am

Like most surveys, this one on the health of Kauai’s residents had good and bad news.

But of the 100 or so people at the Get Fit Kauai annual meeting who listened to the presentation, there was almost a consensus: We must exercise more, eat healthier foods, drink more water and cut back on the pop. We must get out and about more often.

“I’m not surprised this is the state of our island,” said Bev Brody, Get Fit Kauai coordinator.

Florentina R. Salvail with Health Risks Epidemiology and Surveillance Section for the Hawaii Department of Health, unveiled the survey results in a 20-minute program on Friday at the Courtyard Marriott.

The first telephone survey was taken between August and December of 2010. The second, from August to December 2012.  Nearly 1,100 people were interviewed each year.

Both surveys included the same questions on numerous areas, including the consumption of fruits and vegetables, whether you received food assistance, how easy it is to purchase healthy foods, how much and how often you drink water and soda, how often you exercise, and whether your neighborhood is a safe place to walk.

The finding, which compared answers from 2010 to 2012, found most Kauai residents were not making changes toward a healthier lifestyles.

Brody was most concerned about the fact that only about 20 percent of  Kauai residents said they were eating five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

“That really tells me we need to step up to the plate, a little bit, and make sure that there is access to healthy foods, fresh fruits and vegetables,” she said.

Some highlights of the 2012 data:

• About 18 percent of Kauai adults report fair or poor health status

• Over half (54 percent) are overweight or obese

• 61 percent participate in 150 minutes of physical activity per week (recommended amount of aerobic activity)

• Almost one quarter of adults do no physical activity in an average week

• Only 20 percent eat five or more fruit and/or vegetables per day (or you can say about 80 percent do not eat enough fruits and vegetables each day)

• 22 percent drink one or more soda or sugar sweetened beverage each day

While pleased more people on the survey in 2012 said they were exercising than in 2010, Brody said people tend to overestimate their physical activity.

“Which is more concerning to me than anything,” she said.

Salvail also said there were areas of concern.

Those receiving food stamps or benefits from the WIC program rose to 17 percent in 2012, up from 15 percent two years ago.

“We have to be concerned there’s a rise in the number of people receiving food assistance,” she said.

People said they were eating more fruits and vegetables than they were two years ago, but 80 percent reported they ate fewer than five helpings daily.

“I think that’s the most salient part of the presentation,” Salvail said.

Those saying they had physical or mental health issues fell from 22.4 percent in 2010 to 18.9 percent in 2010.

“We should be happy in terms of chronic disease, there’s a decline,” she said.

According to the survey, 64 percent of Kauai residents drink four or more glasses of water per day, while 29 percent said they drink only two to three.

General guidelines for water consumption call for eight glasses a day to half a person’s body weight.

“I think four glasses is too little,” Salvail said. “We really need to hydrate.”

More people, 22 percent in 2012 up from 18 percent in 2010, were drinking at least one serving of sugary beverages each day.

“What is worrisome, it has increased,” Salvail said.

Get Fit emphasized the importance of setting examples and teaching keiki to exercise and eat right. They talked about designing pedestrian and cyclist-friendly streets.

Brody would like to see a county ordinance that doesn’t allow a fast food restaurant to be built within 1,000 feet of a school.

“If it is, make sure there’s fruit and vegetables right next door,” she said. “We’ve got to level the playing field.”

Rachelle Bachran, public health educator with the Hawaii Department of Health, was concerned by the survey results in several areas.

“It’s a number of those issues pointing to the direction that we’re in trouble,” she said. “I think there are lots of signs we better do something.”

People aren’t eating right (22 percent said they “never” noticed calorie information when ordering food) or exercising enough (25 percent said they didn’t do any physical activity).

The findings are interrelated, Bachran said.

“We’ve got to start looking at the relationships between what that data says, and how are we getting there,” she said.

Tommy Noyes with the Hawaii State Department of Health said the survey was “a good indication that there’s a mindset on Kauai that health is important. The best way we’re going to become healthier is to be more active, eating healthier food and changing the systems that deliver the food to our tables.”

It’s important, he said, to get out and connect with neighbors, too.

“We’re making tremendous progress here. It’s difficult to make headway with the prevailing food delivery practices,” he said, “But we’re an example for the other counties in our state and the resolve demonstrated today is really encouraging. We’re making progress.”

Others weren’t convinced the survey was accurate.

Dr. Dillep Bal, Kauai District Health officer, found the survey just a snapshot of the island health’s.

“The connection to health of many of these things is a little tenuous,” he said.

Neil Clendeninn with the Lihue Business Association said a key to improving the health of Kauai’s 67,000 residents is to offer more options to get there.

“I think it’s important to get multiple ways for people to look at the same thing so they’ll participate,” he said.

It will be a slow process, though. Lifestyle changes are difficult to make. There are steps backward as often as steps forward.

“This is stuff that’s not going to happen overnight,” Brody said.

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