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NKY Health: Helping Communities Bite Into a Healthy Lifestyle

 

By:  Cathy Winston, M.Ed., RD, LD, Nutrition Manager

 

National Nutrition Month® is celebrated every March to increase the public’s awareness of the importance of making informed food choices, as well as to promote sound eating and physical activity habits. Registered Dietitian Day, also celebrated in March, increases awareness of the valuable, credible and timely resources registered dietitians (RDs) are to the public. RDs use scientifically-based food and nutrition information to improve the community’s health, helping people enjoy healthy lives.

Dietitians at the Health Department work in the clinics and in the community. Community initiatives include the Healthy  Challenge, a month long event with approximately 30 schools and 16,000 students and staff  participating in the challenge to eat 5 fruits and vegetables along with 30 minutes of physical activity every day. NKY Health RDs also contribute to Farm to School initiatives through the Eat Healthy NKY Coalition, promote school gardens, and consumption of locally-grown foods. NKY Health diabetes programs consist of classes, support groups, and NKY Diabetes Coalition events, such as supermarket tours, Dinner Discussion and Diabetes, Taste of Physical Activity, and other promotional efforts aimed at educating people of all ages throughout NKY neighborhoods.

In the clinic, nutrition services include Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. MNT is an evidence-based medical approach to treating certain chronic conditions through the use of an individually-tailored nutrition plan, making it a more in-depth type of nutrition counseling. NKY Health RDs provide counseling on many health issues including elevated lead levels, weight management, hypertension, and elevated cholesterol just to name a few. RDs work one-on-one with referred clients, and referrals may come from the Health Department’s county clinics or from local physicians.

The WIC program is an important prevention program, because it provides nutrition and breastfeeding education, monthly food prescription of nutritious foods; and access to health-care services. Benefits include:

  • Improved birth outcomes and savings in health care costs
  • Improved diet and diet-related outcomes
  • Improved infant feeding practices
  • Immunization rates and regular source of medical care
  • Improved cognitive development
  • Improved preconception nutritional status
  • Increased likelihood children have a regular health care provider, and
  • Improved growth rates

In addition, every dollar spent on WIC saves approximately $3 in medical expenses. The advantage this provides to the NKY community is huge in terms of both the health of the participants as well as the significant reduction in the cost of health care, something that can be enjoyed by every Kentuckian regardless if they are participating in the WIC program or not.

For more information on WIC, please visit: https://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/about-wic-how-wic-helps

It is vital that Northern Kentucky residents adopt a healthy lifestyle, and providing essential resources to help Northern Kentuckians achieve this goal is a concerted effort that takes the work of multiple staff members. Just like a healthy diet requires food from all five food groups, it takes our entire organization to make sure NKY communities are properly educated in getting healthy and staying healthy.