Kingsport and McMinn County were also recognized for efforts to improve the health of residents. Representatives from each community were given a plaque, flag and sign during a ceremony at the Loudon Lions Club pavilion.
“Changing behavior is hard,” Haslam said. “And in Tennessee we have a lot of good food and we like enjoying that good food, but it’s important for folks to remember that it does matter what we eat, it does matter how much we exercise and using tobacco is always going to be bad for your health. So, our efforts are trying to get people to focus on those three things.”
In order to be designated, communities must establish wellness councils and develop sustainable community activities and events that support a healthy lifestyle.
Johnson said obesity in Tennessee has declined about four points over the last couple years, and the rate in physical activity is up about 7 1/2 points.
“I just want you to know that the work you’re doing is paying off,” Johnson said during the ceremony. “The work you’re doing matters. We can do this with each other one step at a time, and we can do it in the community, which is exactly what this is all about.”
With the designation, local representatives will look to maintain healthy progress by growing current programs and getting more people involved.
“Not only adding more programs but increasing the size and the reach of our existing programs,” Stacy Baugues, Loudon County Schools health educator, said. “So, hopefully driving more traffic to the PLAYLoudon website through social media accounts and those things. So, there are ways that we can get our message out there and growing the program that we’ve got growing already.”
Baugues said one way of getting more involvement might be creating a 5-kilometer run in the county in the fall of 2017.
“It really is the acknowledgement and opportunity to reward communities that are really laying down the foundation of long-term community health,” Russell Cliche, regional director for the Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness, said. “This isn’t the end, it really is the beginning, but really a formal beginning with the governor being here and acknowledging this is important to do. It impacts our businesses, our schools.”
One in four adults smokes in Tennessee, and one in five high school students uses tobacco, according to the Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness. Thirty-one percent of residents are considered obese. Thirty-four percent are overweight.
“Use less tobacco, exercise more and choose healthier foods,” Haslam said. “And what we found is the state, we can talk all we want, but what we really need (is) people at the local level to engage and come up with a specific plan for their community and all three of these communities did just that.”