The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute team recently released the fifth annual County Health Rankings, a report that uses 29 factors to assess the wellbeing of residents in nearly every US county.
The results reveal physical inactivity is decreasing and rates of obesity are leveling off, trends that deserve a glass-half-full head nod. But other results reveal access to activity engagement and healthy food is wealth-dependent, a persisting, unsurprising correlation since SES influences the built environment that either invites or dissuades activity engagement.
Glass-half-empty? On the one hand, any disparity is unacceptable, but looking at this report through the lens of other reports that also reveal encouraging physical activity and obesity rates brings us back to glass-half-full, especially if we dig into the how’s of the improved trends.
The common citizen CAN initiate built-environment change. Many engagement improvements are the ground swells of one person’s advocacy for programming and policy. Net/net, one person can make a difference—and when there are lots of ‘one persons’ making a difference, WE get healthier.
Need an idea to get started on your one-person mission? Here are two examples of policy change that would make an immediate impact.
One, ensure the quality of your community’s programming by requiring leaders to demonstrate competency, either through an earned degree or comparable acquisition of knowledge (reputable fitness certification). Considering the stakes, we can’t leave our wellbeing in the hands of someone who only might be able to help.
Two, increase accessibility to physical activity by instituting joint-use agreements that eliminate ‘territory’ barriers. Schoolyards are just the safe spaces many communities need to offer programming, but squirrely usage rules lock the gates late afternoon and on weekends. Joint use agreements between school districts and community-based organizations can pathway, literally, regular exercise benefits to residents.
Be a ‘one person’ for your community, and look for the results in next year’s report. Better yet, see it in the eyes of the people whose quality of life YOU have improved.