October 25, 2004

Governor to discuss 'Healthy Arkansas' initiative

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a nationally recognized leader in education reform, will discuss his initiative to combat tobacco use, obesity and physical inactivity in his home state during a lecture Thursday, Nov. 4, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The lecture is at 7:30 p.m. in Student Center Ballroom D. The event is free and open to the public. The Public Policy Institute and the College of Agricultural Sciences are sponsoring Huckabee's appearance, which is the third of the Gil and Jean Kroening Lecture Series.Huckabee launched the "Healthy Arkansas" initiative in May to improve the health of the state's residents. The initiative creates incentives using existing resources and funding sources to convince residents to give up unhealthy habits.

"Gov. Huckabee has emerged as a leader in elevating prevention as a crucial strategy for health care," Public Policy Institute Director Mike Lawrence said. "His 'Healthy Arkansas' initiative puts his state in the forefront of combating tobacco use, lowering obesity rates, stressing diet discipline and encouraging physical activity. He sets an excellent example for all of us by matching his rhetoric on healthy living with his personal rigor."

Prompted by a diagnosis of diabetes, Huckabee, 49, started an exercise and diet program last year that resulted in his losing more than 105 pounds. Earlier this month, Huckabee and his wife, Janet, turned in applications to run in the Little Rock Marathon in March.

Huckabee relied on policy makers, health professionals and business leaders in formulating the program.

In announcing the program, Huckabee pointed to statistics that show Arkansas is one of the least healthy states in the nation based on a 2001 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Building on state health initiatives already in place, Huckabee said in May the goal is convincing Arkansans the "key to real change is a behavioral change."

"We eat the wrong foods. We smoke too much. We don't exercise enough. If a person maintains a normal body weight, exercises at least three times each week and doesn't use tobacco, that person will live an average of 13 years longer than he or she would live otherwise," Huckabee said.

Prior to the lecture Huckabee will speak to students in Dietetic Internship Coordinator Janet A. Sundberg's "Food and Nutrition: Contemporary Health Issues" class, which also will include some political science students.

Huckabee is from Hope, Ark., and served as lieutenant governor from 1993-96. He became governor in July 1996 after the resignation of Gov. Jim Guy Tucker. He received the highest percentage vote ever by a Republican gubernatorial candidate in November 1998, and was re-elected to another four-year term in November 2002. He is the state co-chair of the Delta Regional Authority, which is working to stimulate economic growth and alleviate poverty in counties in eight member states, including regions of Southern Illinois.

This is the third Gil and Jean Kroening lecture. Gil Koening, former dean of the SIUC College of Agricultural Sciences, and his wife, Jean, a Carbondale Realtor, established the fellowship so a distinguished speaker can come to campus annually to address issues such as U.S. and world agriculture, food and environmental issues.

Creating citizen-leaders with global perspectives is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.

For more information contact the Public Policy Institute at 618/453-4009.