Remember the good, old days when children biked or walked to school?
The Rhode Island Department of Health does and while certain societal conditions may make that a daily impossibility, something can be – and has to be – done to help residents reap the health benefits such activities provide, it says.
In comes Healthy Places by Design, a department program built on the notion that if you want a healthy lifestyle, you have to plan for it and that is as true within the state’s cities and towns as it for individuals.
“It seemed like a very good opportunity to better plan our community to incorporate design principals that are leading toward building a healthy community,” said Jon Reiner, planning director for North Kingstown, one of three communities that took part in the project’s pilot program.
A little over a year ago, the state health department issued grants totaling $225,000 to North Kingstown, South Kingstown and Pawtucket to create policies promoting active, healthier lifestyles.
With nearly 30 percent of Rhode Island youths, ages 10 to 17, overweight or obese, and with less than half of adult residents engaged in regular physical activity, something needs to be done, the department says.
“Since place impacts health, [the department] is very interested in making places healthier,” said Dara Chadwick, DOH chief officer of health promotion, adding that the department has developed partnerships, including with the Department of Transportation, to develop place-based initiatives.
The plan is meant to provide policies and strategies for municipalities to modify their comprehensive plans to improve walkability, safety, recreation options, transportation choices and access to healthy foods and then to begin facilitating those plans.
North Kingstown, South Kingstown, and Pawtucket were selected from nine applicants.