Pro Cycling Event and Wellness Agencies Team Up To Combat Childhood Obesity

Pro Cycling Event and Wellness Agencies Team Up To Combat Childhood Obesity

May 1st, 2012

The Echelon Project Launches in Utah for National Bike Month

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – A professional sporting event attracts an enormous amount of attention, especially with aspiring young athletes.  Organizers of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah professional cycling race thought it was time to lead by example and team with health-oriented organizations to inspire active lifestyles and good nutrition.  Collaborating with local, non-profit organizations across Utah, the Echelon Project will focus on fighting childhood obesity.  The first in a series of public events will be held this Saturday, May 5, as part of a focus for National Bike Month.

The Echelon Project team is comprised of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, Boys & Girls Clubs of Utah, Utah Department of Health and its Physical Activity, Nutrition & Obesity Program, and Play Well-Play Safe Foundation.  Summer Fit Learning and Mike and the Bike will provide content in a new Youth Activity Book that will have a cycling theme and provide educational components for special events throughout the summer.

Inspired by the bestselling children’s storybook written by Michael Ward, Mike and The Bike continues to promote active lifestyles for children using cycling as a platform. Each Echelon Project partner will also have an interactive exhibit in the Lifestyle Expo at the Tour of Utah, August 7-12, 2012.

”Every year fans see these pro cyclists and they make racing a bicycle look so easy. We want these top athletes to be able to serve as role models for children, and adults.  The Echelon Project can be a great way for our event to demonstrate how an active lifestyle can be healthy, fun, and productive.  And using a bicycle is an exciting vehicle to use for education. We are lucky to have so many great partners helping us launch this program in 2012,” said Steve Miller, president of the Tour of Utah.

Through health and wellness education and special activities and programs, the Echelon Project is focused in 2012 on spreading positive messages about incorporating active lifestyles with good nutrition to lay the foundation for a healthy family, and society. The rising numbers related to unhealthy weight among Americans generated the interest in this cause. According to research findings cited by the Utah Department of Health and Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Salt Lake:

  • Across the U.S., 63.1% of adults are overweight or obese and 26.6% are obese (CDC’s  Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System 2008).
  • More than half of Utah adults are overweight or obese (60.1%, Utah BRFSS 2008).
  • Over one in five elementary-age Utah children are overweight or obese (21.5%, Utah child height and weight study 2008).
  • Over one in five high school-age Utah children are overweight or obese (20.4%) and 8.7% are obese (2007 Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance System).
  • Only two in 10 children eat a well balanced diet including the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. (2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey)

Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Salt Lake announced earlier this year it is launching a five-year plan to ensure that every Club member maintains a healthy weight and has daily access to healthy snacks. They will combine this initiative with nutritional education and healthy lifestyle classes and a variety of physical activity programs. Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Salt Lake serves four locations (three in Salt Lake and one in Tooele) and is now serving more than 1,500 healthy snacks to children every week. Boys & Girls Clubs of Weber-Davis serves location in
Ogden and Roy.

“With the economy making things difficult for the families of the kids we serve, we’ve seen an increase in demand for our Kids Café and snacks at our Clubs,” said LeAnn Saldivar, President and CEO of BGCGSL. “We have more kids who need access to quality food.  It is our goal to provide snacks consisting of fresh fruit and produce and other low-sugar, low-fat treats.”

The Play Well-Play Safe Foundation is another non-profit organization focused on the pursuit of health and wellness through athletics and sport. Play Well-Play Safe looks to educate and support the community through education, sponsorship and pre-participation assessments and research. The Foundation was founded by five-time Olympic Gold Medalist Dr. Eric Heiden, a Park City resident, and is supported by Billy Demong, an Olympic gold medalist in Nordic Combined skiing, and Dr. Max Testa, Chief Medical Director of BMC Pro Cycling Team.

“Our foundation’s goal is to promote health and wellness through athletics and sports. We are proud to partner with Echelon’s effort to address childhood obesity and understand the important role regular exercise plays in combating this epidemic,” added Dr. Heiden.

The Physical Activity, Nutrition & Obesity Program (PANO) with the Utah Department of Health is committed to “make the healthy choice the easy choice.” The vision for PANO is for Utah to be a place where all people can enjoy the best health possible, where all can live and thrive in healthy and safe communities.  The agency recognizes that the number of Utah children, adolescents, and adults that are obese is at a record high.  The goal of the UDOH PANO Program is to prevent and control obesity and other chronic diseases through healthful eating and physical activity. The Echelon Project is one way that PANO can help influence change within schools and local communities. They will provide a registered Nutritionist at Echelon Project events.

Public events for The Echelon Project will begin this month. Play Well-Play Safe Foundation is holding its Youth Athlete Symposium at Utah Olympic Park on Saturday, May 5 from 8:30 a.m. to Noon. This is the first educational program for Play Well-Play Safe, which is geared toward young, first-time athletes and their first-time coaches. The Echelon Project will be part of this event. To register for this event, send an email to register@playwellplaysafefoundation.com.

For additional activities and events for The Echelon Project, visit the web site at http://tourofutah.com/about/our-cause.