Health Days: Smithfield's commitment
to healthy living since 1925
By Lisa Christensen
May 5, 2008 | SMITHFIELD -- More than 55 percent of
Utah adults and 22 percent of children are obese or
overweight, according to the Utah Department of Health.
This puts them at higher risk for diabetes, hypertension,
stroke, heart disease, asthma and cancer.
Maybe it's time to check out Smithfield, nicknamed
Utah's Health City in 1991.
"Ever since we adopted that nickname, we've tried
to be just that," said James P. Gass, city manager.
"We want that identity. That's why we work for it."
That's why Smithfield has focused on putting time
and money into city parks, building a recreation center
and developing community programs as much as possible,
he said. For a city Smithfield's size, he said, the
recreation center is particularly impressive.
"I don't think you'll find a community under 15, 000
with a rec center like ours," he said.
Part of the reason Smithfield is such a healthy city,
Gass said, is because of the general mindset of health
and desire to achieve wellness throughout the community.
Smithfield's Health Days, held this year from May 6-10,
is one such example.
The idea of Health Days is nothing new, starting on
May 5, 1925, in response to a request by President Calvin
Collidge for communities to have a day to promote good
The focus of the first Health Day was on good dental
health, with the theme being "100% O.K. Teeth." Children
had to have their teeth OK'd by a dentist before being
allowed to march in the parade, said Glen J. Thornley,
president of the Smithfield Historical Society. The
emphasis on dental health remained until the early 1960s,
he said, when it then became focused more on general
Today, Health Days focuses more on fitness than anything
else, in part because of the recent nation-wide increase
in obesity. When Health Days was started, dental health
was something often neglected, he said, but is something
much more well-addressed now.
"Now there is much higher incidences of heart disease
and obesity," he said. "As the health concerns of the
public have changed, Smithfield's concerns have changed,
Health Days is very family-oriented, too, promoting
better health for the whole family, said Stacey Dority,
this year's Healthy Community Chair and coordinator
of Health Days. Family activities include a family movie
in the park, a family bike ride and part of the annual
Fun Run, she said.
The Fun Run, which features a one-mile family walk,
a 5k run and a 10k run, has been sponsored and organized
for the past 11 years by Kris and Michael Monson. Their
first year in charge had 38 participants, Kris Monson
said, but has gradually increased to having 300 at last
year's event. Prizes are given for winners in each race,
donated by local businesses, she said.
"We have great sponsors," she said, who donate cash
or gift certificates.
Monson is also on the Smithfield Trails Committee.
The Trails project is to make a safe and accessible
place for people to walk, run or bike around Smithfield.
The trails are all marked with mileage and go around
and through the city, eventually going all the way to
Hyde Park, she said.
"People need to be able to have a place to run, walk,
bike and push strollers," she said. The trails are on
a 20-year plan, with three trails to be completed in
the next seven years, she said.
Overall, Smithfield has come a long way in being a
healthy city, Gass said.
"I think we've done a pretty good job," he said.