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KY Groups to Exchange Ideas on Curbing Obesity

September 13, 2010

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Business, education and government groups in Kentucky are uniting to wage a war against obesity. The Bluegrass State tips the scales as the fourth-most-obese state in the nation, with 70 percent of the state's adults considered overweight. The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is hosting a one-day health policy summit Tuesday to work on solutions to put Kentucky on the right track to wellness.

The group's executive director Susan Zepeda says corporate wellness programs, creating walkable communities and eliminating urban "food deserts" that lack easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables can help take the weight off Kentuckians.

"We're focusing on policy changes that can be made where you live and where you work. There are changes that can be made to our environment that make the healthy choice the easy choice."

Zepeda says the economic impact of obesity is significant, not just in terms of health care costs, but in attracting companies looking for a healthy and productive workforce.

Technology has often been viewed as the culprit in the battle of the bulge, with many kids' preference to exercise only their thumbs at computer games instead of active play. But Kris Kimel, president of the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation, says alternate reality games that involve problem-solving and creative collaboration among players can actually motivate people to get moving.

"They utilize computers, they utilize smart phones, they utilize Twitter, all these other kinds of forms of social media, and actually playing out the game. But they're not computer games where people sit in front of screens and play games."

Kimel is partnering with the University of California-Berkeley Center for New Media to design a new game which will also allow them to mine ideas from players.

"We're going to the customer asking them and involving them in the process of trying to determine how best to alter their behaviors or shape their behaviors and ideas in such a way that leads to better health, and in this case less obesity."

The summit is at the Brown Hotel in Louisville beginning at 9 a.m.

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY