With the continuing onset and prevalence in obesity and diagnosed diabetes among adults, as well as children in the United States, active living is becoming an integral factor for all levels of urban planning – city, county, and statewide. What once used to be a mundane occurrence, physical activity has become completely disassociated from our daily routines. Most activities are completed via personal automobile, even including driving to the local fitness center.
In order to combat this growing epidemic on a local level, Active Living Hennepin County (ALHC) of Minnesota was formed in 2006 with the help of funding by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. Since 2009, BCBS has been supported with supplementary grants from the Minnesota Department of Health’s Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP). There are numerous ways to incorporate a healthier way of living into daily routines; however, this approach takes into account community and transit initiatives. According to ALHC, “Active living is a way of life that integrates physical activity into daily routines from walking to the library to bicycling to work.”
The work of ALHC can be reflected through the mission to “increase opportunities for physical activity by reducing barriers to health in our built, natural and social environment” via the following Guiding Principles:
- Guiding Principle 1: Daily physical activity improves health and can reduce levels of obesity or chronic diseases, such as type 2 Diabetes or heart disease;
- Guiding Principle 2: Built environments with accessible destinations, integrated transportation networks, and inviting design promote physically active and safe options;
- Guiding Principle 3: Programs and policies inclusive of all cultures and abilities can help reduce health disparities;
- Guiding Principle 4: Public participation and awareness of the benefits and opportunities related to active living are increased through effective communication strategies.
In addition, ALHC also recognizes the changing demographic landscape in terms of growing diversity and culture, which resulted in the establishment of the Multicultural Subcommittee in 2008. This committee further looks to identify and remove barriers to better include and represents the needs of all constituents.
With the continuing rise in concerns over health and physical activity, what are some approaches your community is implementing in order to encourage active and sustainable living through community and/or transportation initiatives? Are there important stakeholders who should be included in the conversation when it comes to implementing active living strategies and policies?
Credits: Image by Jasna Hadzic. Data linked to sources.