LITTLE ROCK, AR (News release) - A partnership made up of several city governments, nonprofit groups, state agencies and community organizations from around the state joined together for a press conference to launch National Public Health Week in Arkansas.
Speakers included: Arkansas Department of Health Director Dr. Nate Smith; Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola; North Little Rock Mayor Joe A. Smith; Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines; and Executive Director of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance Kathy Webb.
Public Health Week is observed during the first full week of April each year. Public Health Week is an opportunity for health professionals to highlight the many ways public health protects and improves the health of individuals and communities. This year’s theme, “Public Health: Start Here,” focuses on the simple, first steps that individuals and communities can take to lead healthier lives.
“Though each person has to decide where to start to become healthier, it is clear from our partners here today that there will be lots of help and support available,” said Dr. Nate Smith, Director and State Health Officer at the Arkansas Department of Health.
“We have Hometown Health Improvement Coalitions and Local Health Units in every county in the state that are ready to help individuals and communities with the health issues most important to them—whether that’s quitting tobacco, eating healthier foods, getting more physical activity, breastfeeding support or getting life-saving immunizations,” Smith added.
“We in public health, along with our government and community partners, are committed to providing all Arkansans with opportunities and resources to help them start improving their health.”
Public Health Week is a chance to recognize the work that is being done at the state and community level to address public health issues. There are many programs across the state that, through community partnerships, are available to Arkansans who are ready to make a positive change for their health.
“Our North Little Rock Fit 2 Live initiative has made healthy eating and active living more accessible. Along with the Laman Library, the Hunger Alliance, and other partners, we are making healthy living attainable and fun,” said North Little Rock Mayor Joe A. Smith.
The Hunger Alliance’s Cooking Matters program is one example of a program that is making a difference in communities.
“Arkansas, unfortunately, ranks at or near the top on issues regarding food insecurity. The nutrition program offered by the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, called Cooking Matters, gives low income Arkansas families the skills and confidence they need to eat healthier on a budget,” said Kathy Webb, Executive Director of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance.
For those who want to exercise more, Arkansas has plenty of opportunities for outdoor activity. In addition to its scenic settings such as rivers and mountains, communities across the state have also developed more ways to get active outside.
“We have one of the best trail systems in the country. Hundreds of thousands of people are using the Two Rivers Park Bridge, the Big Dam Bridge, the Junction Bridge and the Clinton Bridge. Community members are enjoying this healthy activity. And, they are losing weight and feeling much better as they go about their daily activities. Get up, get out and go,” said Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines.
In addition to community-based programs and park systems, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola expressed the importance of ensuring workplace and school health programs.
“The City of Little Rock leads by example when it comes to promoting healthy lifestyles, from internal employee health initiatives to our ‘Love Your School’ programming encouraging healthy eating and physical activity among our youth and their families,” Stodola said. “We are invested in improving the health of our citizens and strive to find new ways to keep Little Rock the #1 Great Place to Live.”