Results from the 2010 Greater Cincinnati Community Health Status Survey show that less than 1 in 4 Greater Cincinnati adults, or 22 percent, meet national nutrition guidelines for healthy eating.
Adults in Hamilton County's suburbs (29 percent) have the highest rate in the region of meeting both fruit and vegetable consumption requirements, while adults in the region's rural Kentucky counties (14 percent) report the lowest rate. Women (27 percent) are doing better than men (17 percent) at meeting the requirements.
"Fruit and vegetable intake is an indicator for an overall healthy diet," argued Nutrition Council Executive Director Lauren Niemes. She says the healthier the diet, the lower the risk for deadly health issues.
For a number of urban and very rural communities, access to healthy foods can become a concern.
"There are lots of barriers so I understand why people don't eat enough, but we have to find ways, easy ways to add fruits and vegetables to their diets in a way they can afford," Niemes said.
"Many of us don't have automobiles," West End resident Rachel Anderson said. "The closest thing that we have is wonderful Findlay market, historic Findlay market, but that's a good walk."
On a hot day, that walk simply is not an option for many.
"That's asking for trouble," she said. "No one would be that anxious to eat fruits and vegetables, I wouldn't! I wouldn't go out of my way to seek fruits and vegetables."
Niemes says access is only one factor in the equation, however. Lack of nutrition education is also another major concern.
"That is a big challenge," Niemes admitted. "Even if people have access to fruits and vegetables they're still not purchasing them, preparing them and consuming them."
The GCCHSS, sponsored by the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati, was last conducted in 2005.
"The biggest concern that I have with this survey is that it was done with adults in Greater Cincinnati and our adults are our role models for kids," Niemes said. "We're not setting a very good example for the next generation."
Besides increasing intake of foods that are good for you, like fruits and vegetables, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommend that people consume less sodium.
"Eating high levels of salt can increase blood pressure and the risk for heart disease and stroke," says Jennifer Chubinski, director of community research for the Health Foundation, "And heart disease and stroke are the first and third killers of adults in both Ohio and Kentucky."
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the majority of sodium that we consume is in processed and restaurant foods. In Greater Cincinnati, 60 percent of adults eat fast food at least once a week. Adults more likely to eat fast food at least once a week include adults who:
- Live in Butler, Clinton, and Warren Counties (67 percent)
- Live above 100% of the federal poverty guidelines (FPG; 66 percent)
- Are male (65 percent)
- Are ages 18–64 (64 percent)
- Are white (62 percent).