CARBONDALE - Barriers to healthy lifestyles, as well as ways to overcome those barriers, were the topic of discussion during a forum hosted by the Center for Health Law and Policy on Monday at the Southern Illinois University School of Law.

The "Aging is an Asset for Health Promotion" forum brought together a team of experts and advocates to draft recommendations about health promotion, the center's Jane Angelis said.

"Our goal is to learn how we can help people take more responsibility for their health and the decisions they make that affect their health," she said.

Forum participants were split into four discussion groups targeting four different areas: health information, intergenerational health promotion, age-friendly communities and end-of-life decisions.

Each group spent the morning talking about problems and brainstorming solutions. They were then asked to come up with three specific policy recommendations to be delivered to Illinois Senate committees, Angelis said.

John Smith, director of Egyptian Area Agency on Aging, helped chair the age-friendly communities session. Much of the discussion centered the importance of infrastructure, Smith said.

"One of our main challenges is that we're lacking a lot of the health care infrastructure that metropolitan communities have. Many of our people have to travel long distances or out-of-state to get health care," Smith said. "So not only do many of our residents have a barrier to getting the necessary care, but there is also an economic impact to the area as people leave to get health care."

The group took a look at ways to solve the dilemma such as using technology to connect people with medical services.

Discussion in the health information group centered on getting the healthy lifestyle message out as well as promoting the resources available in communities and campuses.

"I think we all agreed that there is a lot of information out there, but no one knows where to get it," participant Miriam Link-Mullison of the Jackson County Health Department said. "There are lots of existing resources in our communities and we have to let people know how they can access them."

Also important, she said, is facilitating a shift in attitudes.

"We need more emphasis on keeping people healthy rather than only treating the sick," she said.

The Aging is an Asset series uses an intergenerational approach to address issues of concern such as education and workforce de-velopment.



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