A family enjoying a healthy meal outdoors

Research is finding that our zip codes determines our health more than our genetic codes. The environments in which we live and spend our days – our homes, schools, workplaces and communities – have a large impact on our overall health. By focusing our efforts on making those environments more supportive of healthy lifestyles, we can improve the health of all citizens and begin to reverse the trend of childhood obesity in Idaho.

Improved walking and biking paths, more parks and playgrounds, better access to fresh fruits and vegetables, healthier food options in public venues, and education and support for parents, teachers and childcare providers – these changes can have a real impact on the health of a community.

Tip 1

Create a Community Team

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Creating a community team and conducting a needs assessment can be an impactful tool for gaining momentum to improve access to nutritious foods and reverse childhood obesity in your community. Community teams could consist of representatives from the following sectors:

- Mayor
- City Council
- School
- Faith-Based Organization
- Hospital
- Health District
- Media
- Parks and Recreation
- Non-Profit Organizations
- Chamber of Commerce
- Business
- Police Department
- Community Member(s)

A needs assessment can give the community team insight into existing strengths that can be mobilized and opportunities for improvements, and can assist in making decisions about where to focus resources to improve nutrition in the community.

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Tip 2

Adopt joint-use agreements

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Joint-use agreements are written contracts between schools and other public agencies (e.g., Parks and Recreation Departments) or non-profits that open up schools after hours for use by the community. Joint-use agreements create access to school fields, playground equipment, gyms and basketball courts.

Idaho Code 33-601 allows a school district’s board of trustees to rent out school property to others, authorizes the use of a school building as a community center for public purpose, and allows the board to enter into a contract with any city.

Examples of Joint-Use Agreements include:

- Opening outdoor school facilities for use during non-school hours
- Opening indoor school facilities, such as gyms, for use during non-school hours
- Opening school facilities for use during non-school hours and authorizing third parties such as youth sports leagues to operate programs
- Joint-use of school and city recreation facilities, where the school district and local government agree to open recreational facilities for community and school use and allow third parties to operate programs in the facilities.

Tip 3

Create a bicycle and pedestrian plan

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Adopting a bicycle and pedestrian plan is a great way to encourage walking and biking in a community. This plan provides guidelines and prioritizes work to improve access to walking and biking. Plans include goals and objectives for improving bicycling and walking, data outlining major destination areas (shopping, schools, parks, etc.), and outlining priority projects and programs that promote walking and biking.

You should also work with schools in your community to create a Safe Routes to School program that encourages children to walk and bike to school.

Tip 4

Host a community event

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Hosting a community event is a great way to increase awareness about childhood obesity and promote resources available in your community. There are many types of events you can host in your community, such as Screen-Free Week, Walk-with-the-Mayor program, Play Streets event and much more!

Screen-Free Week is a community-wide event that encourages families to turn off the television and get active. Communities can offer free or reduced-cost activities that promote the recreational resources available in their communities.

Walk-with-the-Mayor program encourages children, families and citizens to walk. Having a key champion within a community is an essential component to increasing awareness about obesity. Walking is a free activity that is easy to do and provides numerous health benefits. Mayors or other city officials can launch a walking challenge to schools in their community, as well as challenge families and citizens to walk more.

Play Streets is a community event in which a specific street in the community gets closed and children are invited to play. During this event, local Parks and Recreation Departments can offer fun activities for children. Play Streets encourages physical activity and can introduce children to the resources available in their communities.

Tip 5

Encourage families to sign up for the Dish+Dash

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The Dish+Dash is a great way for families to receive, regular reminders of fun and easy ways to improve the health of their families via email. Tips include fun activities, healthy recipes, or reminders about upcoming community events.

Starting on the path toward improving health can be overwhelming for a family. Losing weight, being more active, changing old habits – these things don’t just change overnight. And that’s OK. Help your patients and their families focus on taking small steps each day, and before long, they’ll be on their way to better health.

Sign up Dish+Dash here.

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