Guest Blogger: By Mary Michaels, Public Health Prevention Coordinator, Live Well Sioux Falls
According to the National Prevention Council, a key goal for promoting health and well-being in our country is ensuring “all residents live, work, and learn in an environment that provides safe and accessible options for physical activity, regardless of age, income, or disability status.”
Our built environment includes physical resources such as buildings, homes, roads, utilities, sidewalks, parks, open spaces and other amenities within communities. Improving the built environment supports the integration of physical activity into our daily routines like walking or biking to work, school, grocery stores or parks.
Not everyone may think of streets and sidewalks as tools to improve health, however, so it may be necessary to re-frame health issues to make them relevant to different sectors.
Good health outcomes are more prevalent in neighborhoods where
people have easy access to nutritious, affordable food;
safe and walkable streets; and active playgrounds and public spaces.
– New York State Health Foundation
For example, the built environment impacts the health care sector because Americans miss more than two million health appointments annually due to transportation issues. Businesses can lower health care costs and support a healthier, more productive workforce by implementing policies and programs that encourage employees to walk, bike or participate in other recreational activities during, and outside of, work hours.
Over the past five years, a multi-sector collaboration in Sioux Falls has focused on creating a more vibrant, active and livable city. Live Well Sioux Falls enhances the capacity of community leaders to work together, building a culture of well-being to make the healthy choice the easy choice. The sectors represented in the Live Well Sioux Falls coalition include departments of city government, community organizations and nonprofits, the faith community, education, health care and worksites.
The coalition uses data from the Sioux Falls Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) to identify priority health issues, such as the fact that less than half of adults are meeting the recommendation for daily physical activity.
To enhance the built environment and promote physical activity in Sioux Falls, the coalition has hosted two Healthy Community Design Summits with national expert Mark Fenton (2013, 2014); conducted three walk audits (two neighborhoods, one downtown); and achieved passage of a complete streets policy (2015). The efforts are designed to create a comprehensive, integrated transportation network that allows safe and convenient travel along and across streets for users of all ages and abilities, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders and motorists.
Collaboration across sectors can promote efficiency by identifying common goals, fostering conversations about sharing resources and improving outcomes and, ultimately, empowering community champions who will build a healthier community.
We invite you to learn more about this multi-sector collaboration at www.livewellsiouxfalls.org.