The LiveWell Lawrence coalition has announced a community plan to make it easier for local residents to eat better and move more.
The plan is based on Centers for Disease Conntrol and Prevention recommendations and aims to help local governments, schools and the larger community adopt policies and practices that will:
1. Make healthy foods more available and unhealthy foods less available in public venues such as schools, child care centers and city and county buildings;
2. Encourage county residents to produce and consume more local foods, and expand the number of places where local foods are available;
3. Offer all children 30 minutes a day of quality physical activity during school hours, and 30 additional minutes outside of school hours;
4. Design all streets with safe access for all users–walkers, bicyclists, wheeled-device users, transit riders and drivers.
The plan’s ultimate goal is to reduce chronic diseases linked to poor eating and sedentary lifestyles.
“Good health is not achieved in clinical settings,” said Marilyn Hull, Douglas County Community Foundation program officer. “Instead, it happens in the places we live, work, learn and play — our everyday environments.”
With funds provided by the Kansas Health Foundation, the Douglas County Community Foundation will offer $200,000 in grants and other forms of assistance to local organizations working to advance the coalition’s agenda. Grant making is expected to be spread over at least two years.
“Unlike other grants that support programs for specific individuals, these grants will mostly support sustainable policy, systems and environmental changes that impact broader populations,” said Hull. “For example, a policy that would make it easier for all Lawrence public schools to provide children with daily physical activity opportunities would impact all ten thousand plus kids in the district.”
DCCF convened the LiveWell Lawrence steering committee in 2008 to leverage and coordinate community-based efforts to encourage healthy lifestyles, with the ultimate goal of reaching every local resident. Through community meetings and events such as the World’s Largest Community Workout and the seminar Building a Healthier Lawrence, the steering committee has developed a nucleus of more than 300 area residents ready to mobilize for change.
“Our goal is to engage every sector of the community in creating everyday environments where healthy eating and active living become community norms,” said Hull.
LiveWell Lawrence supports and builds on the work of the Community Health Improvement Partnership, the Lawrence Public Schools Coordinated School Health Council, the new Douglas County Local Foods Policy Council, and other entities promoting good nutrition and physically active lifestyles.
In the next 10 years, obesity is expected to overtake tobacco as the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. and Kansas. While Lawrence is among the leanest Kansas communities, with 48% percent of adults being at a healthy weight, the percentage of overweight and obese residents in Lawrence is rising in concert with national rates, putting a large portion of the population at risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension and asthma.
According to the Kansas Health Institute, “the debilitating physical and social effects of obesity are seen in all ages, but they are most alarming when they strike children.” Studies show that 31 percent of Kansas children are considered overweight or at risk of becoming overweight.