Despite being one of the most medically advanced nations on the planet, the United States remains one of the unhealthiest.
There are two overwhelming factors affecting the health of Americans - we eat too much of the wrong foods, and we don't exercise nearly enough. The result? Seventy-five percent of Americans are either overweight or obese, and that includes our children.
We are becoming an obese nation at an ever younger age, and that leads to serious health problems. Obesity is a huge factor in diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, abdominal hernias, varicose veins, bladder disease, respiratory problems and liver malfunction.
The huge uproar surrounding the recent healthcare legislation passed by Congress centered around the conflicting scenarios of just how much a national healthcare program is going to cost.
But there is no controversy around the fact that three simple steps would slash the costs of healthcare in this country to very manageable levels:
1. Get people to eat a healthy diet.
2. Get people to maintain a healthy weight.
3. Get people to exercise strenuously on a daily or several times a week basis.
As we are all well aware, while eating right and exercising are the simple parts, it's the "getting people to do it" that is complicated.
In Bellows Falls, the University of Vermont Extension is working on at least one aspect of that through the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program. EFNEP's Jennifer Chambers, its educator for Windham and Windsor counties, is teaching a free weekly cooking program for young people at the Our Place Drop in Center.
Each week several young people from 11 to 14 come to Our Place after school where they not only get education about healthy cooking, snacks and planning meals, but they also get to do hands-on work in the kitchen preparing the meal they've been talking about, and they bring home a bag of healthy foods to practice what they've learned at home.