Gov. Haslam announces 'Healthier Tennessee'

Healthier Tennessee plan

KINGSPORT, Tenn. - Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam says Tennesseans have lived unhealthy lives far too long. The governor is rolling out a new campaign to change the state's healthcare rankings and improve the health of those who call the Volunteer state home.

Tennessee is one of the most unhealthy states in the nation. It ranks 39th overall and new childhood obesity rates out this week say the Volunteer State was one of only three where that problem is getting worse.

Governor Bill Haslam is touring the state to roll out a new foundation aimed at turning those numbers around.

"If you look at things like hypertension, Type II diabetes, obesity those are all things we are on the other end of the scale," Haslam said in Kingsport Thursday.

The foundation is focusing work on three main goals: get Tennesseans to move 30 minutes a day, five days a week, eat a healthier diet, and reduce tobacco use. "We are going to put some more recognition and understand the opportunities they have," he explained.

The plan is to work with community partners, places like healthcare companies and major employers like Eastman Chemical Company.

Eastman already promotes healthy living with on-site workout facilities and by offering healthy food choices.

Eastman CEO James Rogers says improving employee health is one of his main goals. "I have been saying this for a while now. The health [of employees] means a lot to me. Not only do I want them to be safe on the job, but when they reach that golden day and can retire I want them to have a long life," he said.

The foundation will work with different programs in communities all across the state, but the mission is the same -- to reduce the rate of behavior-influenced diseases like diabetes, heart disease and certain forms of cancer.

The foundation is working with a budget of up to $15 million. The money is coming from a combination of sources, including the governor's budget and state grants totaling more than $6 million.

The board has also raised more than double that amount in private donations.

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