When the interviewer was late on a beautiful Tucson afternoon, Bob and Deb Oro took a walk.

They want you to take a walk, too.

The Oros, practicing dentists in Oro Valley, are a fast-stepping force behind the push to make Oro Valley the Healthiest Town in America.

They’re not kidding. They want Oro Valley, and all of Northwest Tucson, to be healthier than ever, and healthier than everyone else. It can be done one step at a time, with a smaller plate at every meal, they believe.

On Saturday, Jan. 17, The Healthiest Town in America initiative  kicks off at Oro Valley Marketplace.

There are guest speakers, activities for all, free health screenings, giveaways and free pedometers to the first 200 people who sign up for a 5-kilometer walk and run at the event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Why would Drs. Bob and Debra Oro, busy people and parents, commit hundreds of hours to the cause of community well-being?

“Bob has a hard time saying ‘no,’” Deb quipped.

More than two years ago, representatives of Activate Tucson challenged the Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce to get people in the Northwest walking, eating less and losing weight.

“I knew something had to get done,” Bob said. He took on the project with Jerry Bustamante, then head of the Northern Pima Chamber of Commerce.

“I’m not participating,” Deb said at the time. Now, as people have come and gone, Bob “carried it this far,” and she’s helping.

They’ve also had some personal and community realizations.

For 30 years, Deb has been telling Bob “to just eat sensibly.” He didn’t.

“I looked at myself, 196 pounds, and I didn’t fit into anything,” he said.

Fast forward. “I lost almost 20 pounds, and I kept it off,” Bob said. “The only thing is walking, and portions. I went from large shirts to medium shirts. I fit into clothes.”

By walking, and eating less, “you’ll lose 10 pounds in a year,” Deb said.

“You try to do 10,000 steps a day,” Bob said. As of mid-afternoon on a warm Arizona day before Christmas, Bob had logged 5,359 steps. There are approximately 2,000 steps in a mile. The Oros walk at least four miles a day.

“You feel so much more relaxed,” Bob said. “In the beginning, it’s a little tough, but then you start getting hooked on it.”

As a time for talking, sharing experiences and being together without distraction, walking is “one of the most important things for marriage,” Deb said.

On a community level, the Oros are convinced the Northwest can benefit socially and economically from good health.

Goals of the Healthiest Town in America initiative are several, including lower health care costs, less absenteeism in the work place, less stress, increased productivity and increased morale.

Thirty-four cents of every health care dollar is spent on obesity and diabetes-related treatment, statistics indicate. “It’s about saving money,” Bob said. “It’s of epidemic proportions.”

Beyond that, Deb wondered, “If we make this area the center for health, why can’t that be our industry here?”

“How can we make this town more attractive to physicians?” Bob asked, not to mention those who would work for Ventana, Sanofi-Aventis and other growing health care-related companies.

“The health of a community is the cornerstone,” Deb said. “If you’re not healthy, you’re not happy.”

“Let’s be a health-oriented community,” Bob said.

The Oros and their large committee are looking for role models, people who commit to exercise, to recording of their daily activities, and to agreement to not gain weight for a year.

“Our vision is to have 150 champions in the Northwest,” Bob said. Aboard are chamber board members and staff, the Oro Valley Town Council, school and health care officials and others.

“This thing, it’s grown legs,” he said. “All of us have to wrap our arms around this. It could be really cool.”

“We just really want to try to get people out” on the 17th, Deb said. “Hopefully, we’ll have another big party next year.”

Get out there

WHAT: The Healthiest Town in America Oro Valley initiative.

WHEN: Saturday, Jan. 17, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Oro Valley Marketplace.

DETAILS: Forty tents, with health-related information. A ceremonial weigh-in, and a first walk / run at the Oro Valley Marketplace paved walkway. Prizes, raffles, giveaways, fire trucks, an obstacle course and jumping castle, a jump rope contest and free health screenings. Guest appearances by former Mr. Universe Nordine Zouareg and Olympian and former 400-hurdles record-holder LaTanya Sheffield.

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