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Design communities for healthy living

Quality of life improves with more options for physical activity

Sep. 14, 2013
 
Live54218, Brown County's healthy eating, active living initiative, encourages physical activity among youths as part of an effort to reduce childhood obesity rates.
Live54218, Brown County's healthy eating, active living initiative, encourages physical activity among youths as part of an effort to reduce childhood obesity rates. / Submitted
A sign indicates the open street route during an event this summer in Green Bay to encourage safer pedestrian transportation. / File/Press-Gazette Media

Learn more

Find more on the Live54218 healthy eating, active living initiative at live54218.org or like the page on Facebook at facebook.com/Live54218.

About Live54218

Live54218 was created around simple recommendations we could all live every day.
Our mission is to create environments in the community that support and promote all residents daily in consuming 5 fruits and vegetables, drinking 4 bottles of water, having less than 2 hours of screen time, and participating in at least 1 hour of physical activity, and sleeping 8 hours a night.
Strategic areas are:
Active community: Support the development of an active community, ensuring all residents have access to safe and attractive places to be physically active.
Healthy food system: Support the development of a healthy food system, ensuring all residents have access to healthy, affortable food.
Education, marketing and community outreach: Provide countywide education on how to Live54218 and engage individuals, families and partner agencies in Live54218 through marketing and community outreach.
Measuring collective impact: Provide local on-going coordination for standardized data collection countywide on obesity prevention related outcomes and behaviors in order to measure collective impact.
— Live54218.org

Designing a healthy community that makes it easier to be active and socially engaged daily can improve the quality of life for everyone, a goal of the Brown County 20/20 vision. / File/Press-Gazette Media
Morella

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One of the greatest health and financial concerns we face as a nation is the growing rate of overweight and obese residents. With this increase we are also seeing a decline in physical activity.

The situation in Brown County is no different. With only 11 recreational facilities per 100,000 residents and 67 percent of adults at an unhealthy weight, it is necessary to address the physical environment of our community to ensure all residents have a safe, enjoyable place to be physically active. That is in line with the vision of Brown County 20/20 that the community embrace a healthy lifestyle, develop infrastructure for walking and biking and that “families minimize sedentary time and surpass exercise guidelines daily.”

Not only does physical inactivity contribute to the ongoing obesity epidemic, but lack of physical activity is also a direct risk factor for chronic diseases that cost Wisconsin $1.1 billion annually. Regardless of weight, physical inactivity can lead to costly diseases such as diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.

While lack of physical activity is linked to a host of debilitating diseases, participating in physical activity is linked to better brain function, concentration, and memory. According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, not only does physical activity improve academic achievement, but students who participate in physical activity throughout the day also outperform their sedentary counterparts on standardized tests.

Surveys indicate that 20 percent of Wisconsin adults do not participate in any physical activity and nearly 30 percent of Wisconsin high-school youth do not get the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Unfortunately local data is not available for our elementary and middle school children.

Live54218 is Brown County’s healthy eating, active living initiative that focuses on community-based obesity prevention. One of Live54218’s focus areas is to create environments that support and promote all residents daily in participating in at least one hour of physical activity. Since physical activity has been virtually engineered out of our lives, we have convened a multi-sector task force with the aim of increasing access to safe and enjoyable places to be active throughout the day.

Part of our work in promoting physical activity is to support the development of healthy community design. This involves planning and designing communities in a way that makes it easier for people to be active and socially engaged as a part of their daily routine. With such design, we can promote and support an active lifestyle, reduce the dependence on automobiles and increase social connection and sense of community.

Healthy community design can be achieved by taking into account a variety of principles:

• Encouraging mixed land use by building homes, businesses, schools, churches and parks closer to each other promotes walking and biking to these destinations.

• Building a good pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure ensures residents have a safe way to actively commute to a variety of destinations.

• Providing good mass transit is key to reducing traffic, making it safer for residents to participate in physical activity. Residents who use public transportation are also more likely to be more active themselves as they walk and bike to and from bus stops and their destinations.

Designing and building a healthy community can improve the quality of life for all people who live, work, worship, learn, and play within its borders — making physical activity and healthy eating the easy choice for all residents. That goal fits perfectly with the Personal and Community Health vision of Brown County 20/20.

Morella is the assistant director of Live54218. She advocates that a healthy community promotes economic success and enhances overall quality of life for the residents of Brown County.

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