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Grant to help La Crosse Co. combat tobacco and obesity problem

LA Crosse, Wis. -- Tobacco and obesity continue to be the top two leading causes of death nationwide and that's no different in La Crosse County.

Tuesday, the county received some much needed help in combating these two problems.

Currently, about one-third of adults are obese, and for the first time ever, children are expected to live shorter life-spans than their parents. Officials, however, hope this grant will help our community continue on a different and healthier path.

"People want to live to a healthy community," said Linda Lee of the La Crosse County Health Department. "So we want to create that environment."

La Crosse County is on a mission, and it's a mission Lee says changes the way people live for the better.

"We want to make healthy eating, an active lifestyles and tobacco free lifestyles the norm in our community, and while we are moving in that direction, I think we still have a ways to go," said Lee. "There are things we could do to make it easier for people to eat healthy, be active and be smoke free."


Allison Miller of the American Cancer society said La Crosse County is fighting a battle seen statewide. "Wisconsin certainly has an above average problem when it comes to obesity rates," said Miller. "We're doing a little bit better on fewer people smoking than the national average. So if we can remove some of the barriers as to why people don't eat right -- if they can't afford the food, if the food is not available, they don't have a place to work out -- they can make the healthy choice the easy choice. That's a step in the right direction."

Thanks to a new grant, La Crosse County can now take one more step in that right direction.

The county and the Healthy Living Collaboration are the recipients of a Transform Wisconsin Grant.

It's a grant worth $450,000 that will work to give all children in the district access to fresh fruits and vegetables through the farm to school program. It will also help families afford healthy food with the use of debit cards or food stamps at local farmers markets, and help expand smoke free housing options in the community.

"These sorts of grants that really get at those issues right on the local level and can make a direct impact, are very important in getting that process going, and to making Wisconsin healthier so we're all living longer, better lives," said Miller.

But both Lee and Miller said the fight against tobacco and obesity needs to include everyone.

"It can't just be the policy makers, the county board members, the business owners, it really has to be everybody," said Lee. "No one person can do this by themselves. It has to be a community," said Lee.

Lee also said if people work on changing to a healthier lifestyle now, it will also pay off in the long run. She said investing in $1 in prevention can save $4 on health care costs.

"We're always concerned, as a society about the health of our society, but also the health care costs associated with these things," said Lee. "Well if we can prevent this on this end, then we we're not going to have the healthcare costs down the road, so an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Monroe and Vernon County also received smaller grants through the Transform Wisconsin fund. Recipients of the grants will receive the money in August. The funds will last about two years.

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