Leaders put spotlight on health

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Community leaders are taking your health to heart, and they want you to join them.

Organizers of the Littleton Community Retreat met at Buck Recreation Center April 30 for a nutritious breakfast and discussion about how best to promote good health in the city. They’re gearing up for a big event at Snow Mountain Ranch near Winter Park on Oct. 18-19, when everyone in the community is invited to join the conversation.

Geoff Lawton of Littleton Adventist Hospital came armed with data.

Colorado is perpetually in the top 10 states for suicide rates, he said, so mental health and substance abuse should be a focus. He suggests increased economic distress could be a factor, as it is with another big problem he points out — lack of access to care.

“Demographics and socioeconomics are an important predictor of health status,” he said.

Arapahoe County’s heyday was the 1980s and 1990s, he said, with loads of families realizing it was a great place to raise kids. But those parents are now grandparents, and they’re aging in place, so senior care will obviously also be a priority in the coming years.

The number of people 65 and older is increasing in the county by nearly 20 percent a year, said Lawton. They make up 11 percent of the total population today, and he predicts that number will be 13 percent within five years. With age comes chronic disease that is harder to take care of, he notes — things like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

At the other end of the spectrum, Lawton worries about obesity, particularly in kids. They’re growing less active, preferring video games and TV to the many parks and trails in the area.

“That’s sad to say, especially in a population that’s proud of our active lifestyle,” he said.

Kyle Legleiter of the Colorado Health Foundation advised those in the room to start the process by having a conversation about how they define health.

“You need to know where you are starting from in Littleton and where do you want to go,” he said.

City council got the ball rolling on April 2 by making Littleton the first city to sign on with the LiveWell Colorado HEAL Cities and Towns Campaign.

HEAL stands for “Healthy Eating, Active Living.” The program is designed to help city officials adopt policies that improve access to physical activity and healthy food. It’s a partnership between LiveWell Colorado and the Colorado Municipal League, funded through a grant from the state health department.

The conversation will continue in October, and LCR’s goal is always to create a plan of action. Positive outcomes have included Town Hall Arts Center, The Village preschool and lowering the railroad tracks that used to run across Main Street, which ultimately led to light rail coming to town.

For more information, visit www.littletoncommunityretreat.org.

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