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Report: Colorado Gets a "C" for Health

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014   

DENVER - Despite its wealth of outdoor recreation opportunities, Colorado has a long way to go when it comes to the health of its residents, according to a new report.

The study released today by the Colorado Health Foundation gives the state a C for children's health, which may come as a surprise to those who see Colorado as a mecca for folks with active lifestyles. Shepard Nevel, the foundation's vice president for policy evaluation and communications, said the state is in a perfect position to improve its "average" grade.

"In some ways, Colorado is not doing as well as we expect of ourselves as a high-performing state," he said, "but the solutions are within our reach, and we can make very specific changes."

More than 17 percent of pregnant women in Colorado receive prenatal care later than the first trimester or not at all, according to the report, and the state ranks 24th in the nation for physical activity for children. It's one of only four states where physical education isn't mandatory in schools, and PE teachers are not required to have any education in the subject area.

The St. Vrain Valley School District does fund PE - and takes it one step further, with assessment tools, fitness testing data and instruction, said Robert Berry, the Longmont-based district's director of athletics, fine arts, PE and health.

"Our students are much more engaged," he said. "Also, I think what has done is, the philosophy of PE has changed. It's no longer towards team concept, but personal fitness."

Nevel said he is convinced that change can start with Coloradans themselves.

"One thing parents can do is to be a voice for children in our schools," he said. "And secondly, I think all of us - parents and non-parents alike - can think about what we can do to engage in more physical activity and to eat healthier."

The report said adults' health could also use some improvement. Colorado's obesity rate has doubled in less than 20 years, although more older adults are managing to stay fit. The report said that's the group with the highest rate of physical activity compared with those in other states.

The report is online at coloradohealth.org.


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