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02-14-03: Promoting ways to a healthier lifestyle
The Daily Standard

    Former  state Senator and Cleveland Browns player Dick Schafrath told middle and elementary students in New Bremen, Wapakoneta and St. Marys Thursday that the top five causes of death in Ohio could be linked to lifestyle.
    At a marathon pace, Schafrath went from one school to another as part of Gov. Bob Taft's and the Ohio Department of Health's Healthy Ohioans initiative. When it was done, he had given  his message to nearly 2,200 Auglaize County students.
    The initiative is aimed at educating Ohioans and urging them to live healthier lifestyles. Ac-cording to the 2000 Ohio Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (OBRFSS), the leading causes in death in Ohio can be directly linked to diet, tobacco use and lack of physical activity.
    "The governor is simply appalled by the risk factors that we impose on ourselves," Schafrath said.  He told students that smoking leads to heart, lung and other problems and that eating and exercising habits leads to obesity which causes multiple health problems.
    Schafrath said middle school students are the perfect age to hear about the need for a healthier lifestyle. He said they are beginning to make the lifestyle choices that affect their health.
    "There are more Ohioans with poor health now than anytime in the history of the state," Schafrath said. "We are working to bring some normalcy to people's health."
    Schafrath spent the whole day in Auglaize County, speaking to seventh and eighth grade students in St. Marys, speaking to New Bremen, Minster and New Knoxville students in New Bremen, going back to St. Marys to speak to fifth and sixth grade students and seventh and eighth grade students in Wapakoneta. He also presented a smoke-free business award to Pizza Hut in New Bremen and made an appearance at a cardiac rehabilitation dinner at Wayne Street United Methodist Church in St. Marys.
    He said his goals are to increase awareness of the importance of healthy lifestyles and the need to change unhealthy habits to healthy ones, one step at a time.
    "Our first goal is to establish relationships with all 88 counties," Schafrath said. "We have done that. There are statewide budget cuts that have affected funding, but the first steps are being accomplished.
    While Schaf-rath is seldom approached personally about his programs, he said he has received several letters from students who have thanked him and attributed their decision to lead a healthier lifestyle to information he gave them.
    According to the OBRFSS, Ohio has the fifth largest percentage of adult smokers in the United States at 26.2 percent. More than 57 percent of adults are overweight and more than 30 percent of adults participate in no physical activity. Among youth, 10 percent of children are overweight and 81 percent admit to eating less than five servings of fruit or vegetables a week.
    "Those numbers are alarming," Schafrath said.
    Schafrath is more than happy to answer the questions youth have about his football career.
    "You would probably lose a lot of kids' interest if you just came in here and talked about healthy lifestyle choices for an hour," Schafrath said. "A lot of kids want to hear the stories.
    "A lot of kids are interested in sports and if I can use that to help them make better health choices, I am am fine with that."


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