East Texans push for healthier communities

(KTRE) – Area business leaders, health care professionals and educators are finding something in common. They want to make Angelina County healthier.

Lining these walls are pictures and words demonstrating a healthier future.

"We need to communicate across lines from industry to health care to education about what's needed in the community," said Winifred Ferguson Adams, division director for health careers at Angelina College.

The Piney Woods area Health Education Center is joining ideas with action.

"If we all work together, what could happen is we could make our communities healthier," said the event facilitator, Jackie Broussard.

A wake up call came Wednesday, when Angelina County was ranked in the bottom half of healthy Texas counties.

"We smoke more. That leads to more heart disease, cancer. We're generally along with much of the state-- overweight and that can cause diabetes," said regional director for the state health department in East Texas, Paul McGaha.

McGaha is encouraging East Texans to work together on a healthier county.

Some of their ideas are as simple as spending at least 15 minutes outside. Nutrition and engaging families are other focus points.

"Obesity, lack of exercise, and poor diet-- we need to work on those three," said McGaha.

It's not too late to fight back. McGaha recommends starting with schools, businesses and neighborhoods.

"You have to educate people, second of all people have to be motivated to do it and thirdly there has to be some type of initiative to get people started," said Adams.

Part of the process includes re-evaluating what's available in our community.

"Are there good sidewalks? Are there good park spaces? Are they accessible to people to be able to exercise during the day or in the evening?" asked executive director of the East Texas area Health Education Center, Steve Shelton. "How much do people in the community know about the effects of smoking and what are some of the other cancer prevention activities that they can undertake?"

Knowing what it will take to live healthier should give East Texans the power to put the plan to good use.

The Piney Woods "AHEC" is developing an action plan for Lufkin. They plan to combine resources and come together on encouraging healthier living.

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