Perspectives (September 2016)
Sara Merz, Director
I just heard a story about how environment and lifestyle affect health. A presenter described driving an hour each way to work for a year. She gained 20 pounds. Then she lost 40 pounds in a year – without changing her eating habits. Sounds like an ad for weight loss drugs! How did she do it?
She moved to Japan for a year. She walked, biked and took buses every day. Not only did she lose the 20 pounds she had gained, she lost another 20. And all the Americans in her group lost a lot of weight – because they all used active transportation daily.
This anecdote was told at a recent annual meeting of municipal grantees of John Rex Endowment’s Wake County Healthy Communities grants, where we heard more about Health in All Policies (HIAP) – key in AHA’s work over the last year. Active Living by Design brought in ChangeLab Solutions. AHA is glad to be part of this work.
ChangeLab presenters also shared examples of ways to connect government services, so they share the goals of health across departments.
One example we heard, which is also happening in some places in Wake County, was remote drop-off at schools. This is when a site near a school is selected, like a church parking lot. Parents have the option of dropping kids off there. From there the kids walk the last stretch to school. This has the potential to be expanded, depending on local conditions and opportunities. Long carpool queues result in a need to have a huge footprint of land just for carpool lanes. It’s generally used just a few times a day, and even with those lanes on school grounds traffic may back up onto the main road. Remote drop-off is a way to reduce some of the idling that happens, improve our land use, and get some kids walking a little bit more.
It was exciting what the six Wake County town grantees have been doing and are working toward. They are all working on some combination of increasing healthy eating and active living. Thanks to John Rex Endowment, Active Living by Design, and the leaders in those six Wake County towns who are committing to cross-departmental leadership to make policy and infrastructure changes. This work will pay off for years to come.