Polk community leaders announce initiative to cut the pounds after ranking high on obese list

Lakeland-Winter Haven named 7th most obese area

LAKELAND, Fla. - A recent study may give people in Polk County a better reason to drop a few pounds.

Lakeland-Winter Haven was named the 7th most obese area in the country. Polk County's obesity rate is also among the highest in Florida at 37.6-percent.

The state average is 27.2-percent.

"Lets drop some of this fat," said Debbie Zimmerman, Wellness Manager of the Polk County School Board.

Zimmerman is one of several community leaders that formed the group, Building a Healthier Polk, to take on the obesity epidemic.

Monday morning, the group stopped by the Lakeland City Commission meeting to announce a three-year initiative.

"Right now our goal is to get every community behind us, to let them know that we're doing something, that they have a part of this," she said. "They can support us and provide activities for their community."

The group plans to work with area doctors and encourage them to have a serious talk with patients about losing weight.

They are also focusing on wellness programs in the workplace that promote healthy behaviors.

"That can be as simple as providing fruit at a meeting instead of your traditional doughnuts and danishes," she said.

They also suggest that some employers try a walking meeting, instead of a sit-down meeting.

The goal is to try to sink below the state average.

"We want people to just take it one step at a time, and our communities to do the same," said Colleen Mangan with the Polk County Health Department. "What can we do as a community, one step at a time."

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