BENTON -- A community volunteer organization is taking on a new community issue: obesity.
Officials and volunteers from Missouri Bootheel Regional Consortium Inc. recently met with Scott County commissioners to provide information on their organization.
Cynthia Dean, CEO of the Missouri Bootheel Regional Consortium, said the non-profit, public organization provides a variety of programs in the Bootheel using federal and state funding to help "unserved people in the community."
Among the most recently implemented MBRC programs is one using education and training to address obesity in the community.
Shelly Wims, a program development coordinator for MBRC, said there is a "focus on the prevention of obesity" through "activity, exercise and nutrition."
"We're going to have exercise clubs and walking clubs," Dean said.
Wims said a lot of unhealthy eating habits are due to tradition and culture.
"A lot of the stuff we eat tastes good but is not good for us," she said.
Wims added that a lot of health problems experienced in the community are due to "not eating right."
"Health concerns associated with obesity include diabetes, hypertension and increased heart disease," said Nan Thornton, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Missouri Delta Medical Center.
Obesity can also complicate other health problems. For example, if a person has arthritis, "if obese they could be even more physically limited," she said.
Along with the nutrition classes, MBRC is organizing exercise classes to increase activity levels.
Wims said in addition to holding exercise classes, their organization is also trying to establish facilities to encourage a more-active lifestyle such as walking trails.
The organization uses photo galleries and testimonials to show "the people are committed, are dedicated," she said.
Carolyn Davis, chairperson for a local MBRC council, explained local councils have their own funds to allocate to educate the local community. Two years ago, the local council decided to focus on obesity.
She found that not only was she educating program participants about obesity, she was becoming educated herself.
"It opened my eyes up," Davis said. "I started walking, I started exercising."
Pauline Lewis, local council member for the MBRC in Scott County and a team captain for a MBRC exercise class, said the organization is giving participants "opportunities to do something with their lives. ... I would just like to see more people, more families get involved in this organization."
"We educate them to take better care of themselves," said Vanessa Frazier, lead outreach specialist for the MBRC.
"I think it takes a community effort to reach this problem," Thornton said of obesity, noting that area school system, local health care providers, dietitians and nutritionists all play an important role in fighting obesity.
MBRC officials and volunteers also discussed their volunteer recruitment activities and other programs offered in the local community focusing on job training, infant mortality rates, parenting and fiscal responsibility.
"I'm sure you help a lot more people than you realize," said Presiding Commissioner Martin Priggel.
Commissioner Jamie Burger said his wife, who works for the county health department, often works with the organization and is impressed with what they do.