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AHA improves the health and well-being of Wake County residents by facilitating and supporting community initiatives.

Perspectives (July/August 2015): Back to School and “Health in All Policies”

Sara Merz - Headshot--reduced

Sara Merz, AHA Executive Director

This month we’re sharing some back to school news – so important because schools are a huge “system” in Wake County where kids go through much of their day together. Schools are a place with great potential for improving student health, and the district and many individual schools are taking active steps to do just that. AHA’s healthy schools awards have recognized schools impacting over 13,000 kids, or nearly 9% of WCPSS students, in the last 2 years alone.

I’m seeing such a theme of places or organizations whose main mission is NOT health – but whose work is key to improving health of large populations – leading in this area. We are fortunate to have Bill Lindsay, City Manager of Richmond, CA, coming to speak in Wake County later this month. He has leveraged his town’s departments to support healthier environments and behaviors for all their residents through existing city services.

What’s exciting to me is that he has gone beyond the built environment/planning and healthy eating realm, and extended this to other departments who have not traditionally seen a link between their work supporting and promoting health of their residents. Staff have integrated a “Health in All Policies” strategy and ordinance into their city’s general plan, which is a guiding document for what they do and how they do it (here in NC, towns call this a “comprehensive plan.”)

This brings me back to the power of collaborative efforts leveraging the strength and reach, and existing roles, of different organizations in advancing health. Municipalities and the YMCA of the Triangle are also integrating AHA’s Sport Snack Game Plan and Camp Snack plan, to benefit the health of over 28,000 kids/year, and growing.

AHA’s work is all accomplished with and through other organizations, shifting systems or activities where large groups of people are already gathered. We know intentional changes can improve healthy behaviors without individuals being told to “go do something more or different.” The John Rex Endowment’s ongoing grants to 6 Wake County municipalities around healthy eating and physical activity are a great example of this, and in fact, this is what is bringing Bill Lindsay to town. We’re thrilled to be hosting him for a separate event, with support from WakeMed and co-hosted by Wake County and the YMCA of the Triangle.

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