Join the fight against diabetes
We have a lot to be proud of here in Howard County. From our fantastic schools to our thriving cultural life, it’s no wonder Howard County is often discussed as one of the best places to live in the U.S. Howard County also ranks among the healthiest counties in the nation – and we’ve worked hard to make that happen. But still, good health is not as easily achievable for everyone in our community.
Though many of us take it for granted, healthy food and drink options can be expensive and hard to come by for many. Especially for families on a tight budget, fresh fruits and vegetables can be next to impossible to work into their regular diets – and costs continue to rise. Healthy food and drinks can be out of reach for lower income families and those who do not have access to transportation that can take them to farmers markets or grocery stores with fresh, healthy produce. Poor nutrition is a key factor in developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, which is rising dramatically in our community and across the nation.
The Horizon Foundation and our partners have worked for years through our HoCo Unsweetened campaign to encourage families to switch to healthier drinks since research shows that consuming sugary drinks like soda, sports drinks and fruit drinks is heavily linked to chronic diseases like diabetes. We’ve seen great results so far – soda sales are down by 30% since 2013. We also helped launch the Let’s Rethink Lunch program, which began as a pilot in three schools and now provides fresh salad bars at every Howard County elementary school. However, recent data shows that 13% of adult Howard County residents have diabetes and an estimated 37% have prediabetes. Experts predict that these rates will continue to grow unless we act quickly. These diseases are increasingly affecting young people and people of color, leading to serious health consequences throughout their lives. In fact, systemic racism has led to inequities where in Howard County, African American residents are more than twice as likely as their white counterparts to have diabetes. These inequities include a lack of places to affordably and safely walk and bike, a lack of access to health insurance, the concentration of fast food restaurants in lower income communities and more.
Clearly, we need to do more. That’s why the Horizon Foundation formed the Healthier Choices Coalition, a growing partnership of concerned residents, health organizations, civic and faith groups working to make change happen in Howard County – change that will make healthier food and drink more widely available, accessible and affordable for our neighbors, families and friends. We’re currently working to make fruits and vegetables more accessible to residents enrolled in federal food programs, improve food at schools for our kids and continue to warn residents about the risks of consuming sugary drinks.
When healthier food and drinks are more widely available and affordable for everyone, it is easier for all people to have them on hand in their homes, workplaces, schools, organizations and faith groups. When the healthy choice is the easy choice, good health is achievable for everyone. We need policy change – and your voice – to make this happen.
We know diabetes touches the lives of so many Howard County families. We want to build healthier Howard County for everyone, at every stage of life. No matter who you are or where you live, EVERYONE should be able to access healthy and affordable food and drinks in our community. Join us in the fight against diabetes in Howard County by joining the Healthier Choices Coalition today.