The National Physical Activity Plan is a multi-sectoral blueprint for creating a more robust culture of physical activity. It's appropriately aspirational, but grounded in practical objectives. Much like Healthy People 2020, it's great strength is its ability to unite powerful forces of change around common goals.
But the magnitude of the project - creating a cultural shift of national proportions - can feel overwhelming. So many changes need to be made in so many places. Real, measurable progress seems difficult to identify.
But like the journey of a thousand miles that begins with a single step, maybe cultural shifts of national proportions can begin with a single county.
And that county may be Greenville, South Carolina.
The folks of Greenville have created Livewell Greenville, a partnership of dozens of public and private organizations that aims to make Greenville County a healthier place to live, work, and play.
The approach of Livewell Greenville is to not only provide educational resources about healthy living, but also to create policies, systems and environments that make the healthy choice the easy choice.
The initiative focuses on seven societal buckets: at school, before and after school, at work, at the doctor, at mealtime, around town, and "for fun."
The following Livewell Greenville goals relate to physical activity:
- Provide tools to teachers to encourage physical activity during learning and throughout the day.
- Encourage more childcare providers to serve healthy meals and snacks and offer regular structured physical activity in licensed childcare centers.
- Encourage more after school providers to serve healthy meals and snacks and offer regular structured physical activity in non-licensed after school programs.
- Incentivize after school programs and childcare centers to adopt policies that support healthy eating and active living among children.
- Increase the number of work places that adopt policies and environments that support employees in staying physically active and eating healthy, nutritious food.
- Encourage health care providers to provide patients with practical referrals for healthy eating, active living, and treatment for obesity.
- Enable residents to run errands and commute on foot, by bike, or on Greenlink.
- Enable more Greenville County children to walk to school safely.
- Encourage neighborhood groups and residents to become more involved in the transportation planning process.
- Increase safety through Park Watch programs.
- Increase access to basic recreation facilities through the development of a model Complete Parks policy.
- Increase accessibility to local parks.
- Increase awareness of local facilities where residents can play and be active.
My hope is that Livewill Greenville will inspire thousands of similar community-based efforts around the country. Surely, duplicating the initiative would not be easy, and Livewelll Greenville benefits from the talents of dedicated community champions willing to invest significant time to make the initiative meaningful, but I'm willing to bet that every community has champions who are up for the challenge. Maybe every community won't succeed, but given what's at stake, it's certainly worth a try.
To follow the progress of Livewell Greenville and learn more about their inspirational community efforts, please visit livewellgreenville.org.
What are some examples of other communities dedicated to creating a healthier place to live, work, and play?