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What we think: Being healthy is all individual

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We are breathing a lot easier knowing that Shelby County is considered the ninth-healthiest among our 120 counties. It’s nice to know that our standards for healthfulness and our pursuit of those standards are valued by outside observers.

And we certainly share Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger’s goal of being No. 1 – what does Oldham County have that we don’t, except for more people? – and we encourage the aggressive pursuit of that lofty ranking.

After all, just wanting to be healthier than the Joneses surely would make us all healthier by default, wouldn’t it?

But we also think that the pluses cited by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute in its evaluation of Shelby County really weren’t all that rosy-cheeked when you really think about them. For instance:

  • Almost four out of 10 of us is obese.
  • One in four of us still smokes.
  • One in 10 of us drinks too much.
  • And three in 10 of us are physically inactive?

Are those positive ratios? Are they something to cheer?

Other than the use of alcohol feeling a bit lower than we would have expected, these statistics seem a bit sad to us.

Now Mr. Rothenburger and the Shelby County Parks Board have been great advocates for healthy living. They have been aggressive in the past decades in creating facilities and programs that have brought opportunity to hundreds of thousands of us.

Jewish Hospital Shelbyville and other groups have been aggressive with health forums and even this newspaper has introduced a monthly Your Health section to promote wellness.

There also remain grand ideas for trails and linked parks and walking and biking lanes on thoroughfares, all important and needed additions to encourage the idle to become mobile.

There have been discussions about limiting exposure to second-hand smoke. Schools are creating healthier cafeteria fare. Our agricultural leaders are offering more and more opportunities for fresh produce to find our tables.

But no one dollar, idea or effort really matters more than your own.

We as a society can entice each other with facility and fatuousness, but we can’t pick up our neighbor’s foot and set it in front of the other. That movement has to come from within.

And we fear that too many of our friends and neighbors tend to move most quickly in the direction of high-fat food and away from better habits that generate a longer life. The obesity rate among our children has proven that bad habits can start young, too.

We look around and see a lot more bad examples of personal commitment than good ones, and we worry that a legacy of healthfulness won’t ever take root despite all our careful conniving.

But all of that is up to you.

If you are proud of Shelby County’s ranking on the health scale, if this gives you a reason to crow, take a pause and reflect on whether you are doing all you can to make your life healthier, with better diets, exercise and general habits.

If you find yourself lagging, then you are holding back not only yourself but also your county in this poll.

We can’t be No. 1 without you.