Leaders to Gather in Hershey to Advance Healthy and Active Communities

Friday, May 20, 2011 General News
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HARRISBURG, Pa., May 19, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Community leaders from across Pennsylvania

will convene in Hershey on Tuesday, May 24 to discuss ways to expand opportunities for children to get outdoors for some much-needed exercise.  

The inaugural Pennsylvania Healthy

and Active Communities Summit will bring together professionals from parks and recreation, health care, local government, community health, academia and other arenas to showcase strategies and resources for developing partnerships to improve community livability and encourage close-to-home recreation.

"Recent surveys show that people are looking for outdoor recreation opportunities close to home," said Lt. Governor Jim Cawley, who will provide opening remarks at the summit. "Our communities can help reverse the alarming trend away from outdoor activities by providing and promoting the chance to exercise and have fun outdoors locally."

Strengthening connections between outdoor recreation and healthy lifestyles is a recommendation in the state's five-year comprehensive outdoor recreation plan, which the National Association of Recreational Planners has hailed as the nation's best plan.

"We're dealing with the first generation of children that does not spend most of its playtime outdoors, leading to very real concerns about their fitness and becoming disconnected from our natural world," Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Richard J. Allan said. "Encouraging preventive approaches will not only lower health care costs, they will bring economic benefits to our towns and cities by making them places where people want to live and work."

"The state Department of Health is pleased to partner with DCNR to implement their five-year State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan to demonstrate the benefits of outdoor physical activity," Department of Health Secretary Dr. Eli Avila said. "Increased physical activity and overall healthier lifestyles can reduce our risks for chronic diseases such as heart disease, asthma and diabetes."

Department of Health statistics show nearly one-third of Pennsylvania students in grades K-6 are classified as overweight or obese.

"While we can lead the charge, we need communities across Pennsylvania to get involved to make 'the healthy choice an easy choice' for their residents," Avila said.

The Center for Nutrition and Activity Promotion at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital, through a multi-year partnership with DCNR, is hosting the day-long summit at the Hershey Country Club.

Center Executive Director Donna Kephart recognized the need to improve active lifestyle opportunities locally.

"Our communities play a significant role in our health; and today, many communities do not provide opportunities for active living," Kephart said.  

Highlights of the summit include an opening keynote presentation by Dr. Sandra Hassink, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Childhood Obesity Taskforce; and luncheon keynote by Todd Christopher, author and co-founder of the National Wildlife Federation's Green Hour campaign.

Throughout the afternoon, participants will hear from individuals and community partnerships that have been successful in organizing and implementing active community efforts. Speakers will represent programs and projects in Allentown, Carlisle, Columbia, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Mercersburg and York.

Through sponsorships from Capital BlueCross, DCNR, Highmark Inc., the departments of Education and Health and other supporting organizations, more than 125 attendees will participate in this invite-only event.

For more information on the summit and to view a complete agenda, please visit www.nrgbalance.org/pahealthsummit.

Media contact: Christina Novak, 717-772-9101.

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources


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