Statewide Health Improvement Program's mission is for 'Healthy Communities.'

    "It's not about about public health. It's about bringing the community together," said the director of the Office of Statewide Health Improvement Initiatives,  Pat Adams, at the Healthy Community Forum held at UMC on Friday.

    This was the theme brought up by several public health speakers at the forum that celebrated the local Statewide Health Improvement Program, or SHIP, chapter. The forum was to discuss the initiatives that are currently underway in making healthy choices easier.

    One of the bigger target areas are school districts, as childhood obesity is a growing concern. The idea is to bring in more fresh fruits and vegetables for lunches. ""It becomes a problem when a principal can't get connected to local farmers," said William Burleson, Communications Coordinator for the Office of SHIP. "But we can do that. We can help food services connect to farmers." Another way of getting fresh, local produce is through community gardens, something that is increasingly becoming popular. Said Burleson, "If you can increase fruit and vegetable availability in the community, we know through research that fruit and vegetables are essential."

    It was pointed out, though, that the statewide program is still relatively young. "There is a lot more work to be done," Burleson explained. "We've just barely gotten started."

    But the final word on it? "The beautiful thing is, we're not requiring people to do stuff. Just merely increasing the access to healthy living."