On any given day you can open your Internet browser to search for a new study ranking the fittest cities, best places to live, healthiest cities in the world, and so on. These studies demonstrate it is possible to build a healthy community despite political, environmental or economic challenges. This is consistent with the ActivEarth philosophy, which highlights the environmental benefits of human physical activity and encourages people to live their lives in more sustainable ways.
One particularly useful ranking is our American Fitness Index (AFI). The AFI provides an evidence- and science-based measurement of the state of health and fitness at the community level. Organizations, communities, and individuals throughout the country use the AFI data and analysis to assess factors that contribute to health and fitness, and measure their progress toward achieving them.
In addition to the data report, AFI now offers a Technical Assistance Program to help selected cities identify opportunities to improve the health of their residents and expand community assets to better support active, healthy lifestyles. It is a tool to help government, community leaders, health promotion groups and individuals create a healthier environment.
So what can you do to build a healthier community?
You don't have to be part of the AFI Technical Assistance Program to help nudge your town toward better health. One effective strategy - amplified when more residents participate - is to support bsuinesses that make your community healthier. For example:
- Farmers markets offer fresh produce from nearby growers. This provides you with healthy foods to eat, and economically supports local suppliers.
- Local businesses can partner with health initiatives and health/wellness retailers to encourage workers to lead healthier lifestyles.
- National companies often support community-based programs as a way of strengthening local ties. Approach them as an interested customer. Perhaps you can partner with them as a local business owner.
Encourage community leaders to create a built environment that's conducive to healthy lifestyles:
- Write to your mayor or city department to urge continued development of sidewalks, greenways, bike lanes and hiking trails.
- Support the development of pocket parks where they are most needed.
- Call for school facilities to be available after-hours for community recreation.
Singling out a notable program
One notable program, recently recognized by the Let's Move! Communities on the on the Move video challenge is "100 Citizens: Role Models for the Future." 100 Citizens is a program of the City of San Fernando Partnership for Healthy Families; its proponents believe that ending childhood obesity begins with the family. Families receive advice and guidance about beginning exercise programs. The strategy is to drive public health awareness and implementation at public parks through participation in programs delivered by students and professionals trained in kinesiology.
Whatever route you choose, good luck with your efforts to make your community a little healthier. Let us know what you're doing.