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Think Healthy Thursday: As a nation we are getting healthier. As individuals we are not.

The Huffington Post recently posted the Healthiest State Rankings of 2012. There’s good news and bad news, and we have some suggestions for improvement.

The research indicates that Americans are dying less from cancer and heart-related. That’s a great testament to the medical profession. We’ve come a long way with better cures. Unfortunately, chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and sedentary living are on the rise…

The report, released by UnitedHealth Group's nonprofit, the United Health Foundation, in association with the American Public Health Association and the Partnership for Prevention, shows that 27.8 percent of all Americans are obese, 9.5 percent have diabetes, 30.8 percent have hypertension and 26.2 percent lead sedentary lifestyles.

However, premature deaths and deaths from heart disease and cancer have decreased since 1990.

"As a nation, we've made extraordinary gains in longevity over the past decades, but as individuals we are regressing in our health," Dr. Reed Tuckson, M.D., medical adviser to the United Health Foundation and chief of medical affairs for UnitedHealth Group, said in a statement.

The research was conducted through telephone interviews. Researchers looked at smoking, binge drinking, obesity, high school graduation rates, sedentary lifestyle, children in poverty, infectious disease cases, air pollution, violent crime, health insurance, immunizations, primary care doctors, hospitalizations, and rate of conditions and deaths, such as cancer, obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

It sounds like it’s time for Americans to start taking control of our own health and the health of our children. We like to promote healthy decisions at a young age – starting at home, at child care centers, at the pediatricians with a program called Learning About Nutrition through Activities.

Kids won’t eat what they don’t know. That’s why LANA the iguana introduces kiwis, sweet potatoes, and a whole rainbow of fruits and vegetables to preschool children across the nation. The Minnesota Department of Health developed the LANA program – Learning About Nutrition through Activities – in 2006 as a way to address poor eating habits among children. The idea behind the program is simple: Introduce children to fruits and vegetables through their natural love of toys, play, and hands-on experimentation. LANA the iguana – a plush hand puppet – uses storybooks, menus, food-based craft projects, and eight different stuffed toys to make fruits and vegetables an everyday part of a child’s world.

Getting kids to make healthy choices early will help use reduce all unhealthy activity and hopeful raise the bar across all states!


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