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Up and Coming: Health Initiatives 2012

By Luis Fernandez
Food Pyramid -

Sometimes it’s hard to see past the cold and hard facts of our current situation. Since 2008 the United States has found itself on the frontlines of not one, but several battle grounds both nationally and internationally. Americans are fighting hard against the pressures of a weak economy and rising unemployment rates. Amidst all the stress and financial strain, the issue of rising obesity rates has sky rocketed across the board. Combined, these prove to be quite detrimental to our overall national health and well-being.

Luckily, there are plenty of people who are taking a stand. Unwilling to sit back and let a financial or health crisis take us down, organizations and programs are taking on the issues with a newfound vigor. So how exactly are they going about this? Here are three organizations with forward-thinking ideas for the greater good to keep your eye on in 2012.

How media matters

The media has the tendency to play the role of a double edged sword when it comes to social issues. There are many who would blame the media for some of our worst habits as a nation. Constantly bombarded with advertisements for fast food chains and quick and easy on-the go meals; it’s nearly impossible to escape media food marketing. On the other side of the coin, the media glamorizes the Hollywood standards of living which include ultra-thin physiques and popular fad diets; offering a plethora of mixed messages to the public that not only affect adults but children’s images of what is glamorous and attractive and what is not.

In the face of the polar-opposites the media magnifies, Americans struggle to resist unhealthy foods that are affordable, yet feel pressured to reach nearly unattainable physical standards. There are those who believe the media can and should do more to promote healthy and balanced living. These individuals are taking steps to reach out through media outlets for the common good of our nation.

Producers Dale Bell and Harry Wiland are the founders of Our Media Builds Communities (OMPC). In an effort to promote healthy living and strong communities, the two have combined their media knowledge and resources to create a series of shows for television. These shows highlight strategies for improving health and lifestyles in local communities.

Shown on PBS, cable and in cinemas, these unique public service productions focus on education, the environment and public health. One of their most recent initiatives highlights the importance of creating local communities across America that inspire exercise and are sports, biking and walking friendly. The core belief behind this is that if health begins on a local level, it will have a chain reaction and the environment and overall health of the nation will benefit as a result.

Working for Women and Children

When President Obama brought The Affordable Care Act to the table, he took the opportunity to specifically address the need to provide more universal health care for women and children. While federal funding is currently aimed at improving welfare programs such as WIC and Medicare, associated programs took notice of the movement and acted quickly.

According to The World Health Organization, nearly 1,000 women die everyday as the result of preventable pregnancy and childbirth related complications. Many women who are living at or below the poverty line simply do not have the resources or information necessary to keep themselves or their children healthy. In light of this fact, the Mobile Alliance For Maternal Action (MAMA) has boosted their efforts to deliver necessary information to pregnant women and mothers across the globe through available technologies.

By partnering with Johnson&Johnson, Babycenter and The United Nations, MAMA is looking to deliver virtual updates that correspond to pregnancy and women’s health to more than 6 billion mobile phones that are in use across the globe. When women are informed, they are better able to take care of themselves. Even if an expecting mother cannot afford healthcare, free medical information and infant care advice sent to her phone could be the difference between a healthy delivery and a tragic one.

Learning to be healthy at lunch

While First Lady Michelle Obama has made healthy lunches in schools a top priority on her agenda, another organization is working to fight child obesity by targeting lunch programs across the nation. The Lunch Box is an online tool that schools can utilize to either create new healthy programs in their educational facility or improve upon systems that are already in place.

The website hosts a variety of replacement recipes that school lunch programs can use as they like. The site encourages educational systems to incorporate salad bars, fruits and vegetables and monitor calories in the foods they serve.

The Lunch Box puts a strong emphasis on the need for children to be provided with breakfast at school. When children start the morning off with the right nutrition, they are better able to focus on their academic work throughout the day.

The Lunch Box program not only encourages schools to incorporate these breakfast programs, they are offering a helping hand toward getting there. Interested schools can apply for grants through the program in order to establish a breakfast program in their community. The Lunch box aims to help children establish healthy eating habits now that will carry them through their lives and grow a strong and healthy new generation.

Looking forward

Each of the above-mentioned programs is working towards establishing a health standard in the United States that will allow us to increase productive lifestyles and decrease the risks for health problems. By using media and technology outlets to reach women, children and families, these programs are taking steps towards making 2012 a year of healthy change. Their efforts are only exemplified by the fact that they work to include people living at all levels of economic stability.

Do you know of any organizations that are making great strides in promoting healthy living and deserve to be mentioned? Let us know here!

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