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Guest Column - September 2004

Public Health, Politics and the Local Pool

National Swimming Pool Foundation

By Thomas M. Lachocki, Ph.D.


Almost every day, we hear messages in the media about health consequences due to lack of exercise and poor diet. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published work in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicating that the number-two cause of all deaths in the United States is "Poor Diet/Physical Inactivity," falling closely behind smoking (18.8 percent). A generation ago, obesity, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes were considered "adult diseases." Today they affect an alarming number of children. For example, type 2 diabetes is a relatively new name for "adult-onset diabetes" due to the growing number of children affected.

If we look at diabetes alone, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center of Health, it is the seventh leading cause of death. According to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, out of the approximately 18 million people who have diabetes in the United States, about 95 percent developed type 2 diabetes. Regular exercise and a good diet are more effective than medication at preventing type 2 diabetes.

Time magazine (12/8/03) reported about 200,000 people die each year from complications due to diabetes; about 100,000 people have kidney failure and need dialysis; about 82,000 people have a limb amputated; and about 24,000 people go blind. In October 2003, the CDC published a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association predicting that of the children born in the year 2000, about one in three Caucasian children will develop diabetes during their lifetime. For children of African-Americans and Hispanics, their odds are even worse. People who develop diabetes by the time they are 40 years old will lose about a decade of life and about two decades of "quality" years. These tragedies take a large emotional and financial toll on individuals, families and society.

Politics

These public-health topics have a substantial impact on this nation's (and many others') financial strength. For decades, the long-term solvency of government-funded programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid have been debated. Medical insurance costs rapidly outpace salary increases for most citizens. The net result is that more families lose their health insurance or receive dwindling coverage. Regular exercise (and good diet) prevents many diseases and lowers the cost of health care.

The local pool

You might ask yourself what all this has to do with your recreational facility or swimming pool. Largely, it has to do with the challenge to continue to create value in our neighborhoods by attracting more people to our facilities for good fun and exercise. You only need walk once with a child through a parking lot spotted with puddles to see that human instincts draw us to water. The seeds of civilization were bedded near water. Our own bodies are 70 percent water.

Make it fun

There have been so many great examples written on how to attract people to the water and keep them coming back. The innovations first launched at waterparks are spreading to municipal pools, resorts, YMCAs, country clubs, parks, campgrounds and so on. These fun designs will continue to spread. Articles on good housekeeping, innovative design and renovation, effective management of facilities, concessions, gift shops, and party areas are great lessons to attract and retain customers.

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