By Stacey Knight
The health and wellness of others impact us all. When individuals have the opportunity for better health, the full potential of our young people is realized; business productivity increases, health care costs are lowered, and we all win. More and more people have begun engaging in the conversation and making a difference. After decades of obesity rates going up, we are finally hearing some good news. According to an article in the New York Times and a report from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, obesity rates in multiple cities across America are going down. Over the past few years, this topic has gotten significant attention. From the White House to houses across America, people have begun to change the conversation from one of weight to one of health and the importance of every individual having access to healthful food and a safe place to be active.
America has answered this epidemic with innovative ideas and a lot of passion and hard work. The community of Santa Cruz, CA decided that its children would get the opportunity to be healthy and live longer and more fulfilling lives. United Way of Santa Cruz County convened more than 150 agencies, parents, schools, health care professionals, media, local business leaders and policy makers to work together to increase access to health and wellness. The coalition has already improved school wellness plans, implemented healthier restaurants standards, and worked with the city to adopt recommendations for safe, walkable, and bikeable streets.
Community members of Birmingham are also moving towards a healthier community. United Way of Central Alabama and YMCA are working with dedicated community members and multi-sector partners to improve the policies that reshape neighborhoods and support active living and healthy eating. Together, they are promoting bike lanes and sidewalks, improving vending machine policies to offer nutritious foods, and building or expanding community gardens in areas where healthful food is limited. The community is also working with child care centers and out-of-school programs to provide healthful food and physical activity, which is a win-win for health and education. In fact, healthy eating and being physically activity are both key to academic performance and graduation.
These lowering rates seem to be due to the bold actions of individuals, government, nonprofits, and businesses, to create environments in which the healthy choice is the default or easier choice. We can all make a difference in our own lives and the lives of others. Start a walking school bus in your neighborhood. Plant a community garden. Invite a high school or college athlete to play with and inspire children to be more active. Teach a kid’s culinary class. There are so many ways we can make a difference in our own home and neighborhood and have a good time doing it. Although it might not be time to throw a victory party, it is a time to celebrate the accomplishments we have made and be inspired to do more -- much more.