The city of Phoenix launched a new program to improve the health of its residents and build community connections at the same time.
In 2012, Phoenix ranked as the 26th fittest city in America according to the American Fitness Index (AFI). Created by the American College of Sports and Medicine in 2008, the AFI measures “a composite of preventive health behaviors, levels of chronic disease conditions, health care access, as well as community resources and policies that support physical activity.” Additionally, the measurement takes economic and demographic diversity into account as well as the amount of violent crime to encompass all the components of a healthy environment.
Using the information and measurements collected by the AFI, communities can identify shortcomings and empower their residents to get healthy through policies and resources that promote activity and wellness.
From Awareness to Action
Unfortunately, only one year after the 2012 rankings, an audit of Phoenix discovered almost 300 programs geared toward wellness that were woefully underused according to the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. Dismayed by their drop to 33rd on the AFI rankings, Mayor Greg Stanton and Vice Mayor Daniel Valenzuela teamed up with Olympic Gold Medal Swimmer and Phoenician Misty Hyman to start FitPHX.
This city-wide initiative partnered with the Parks and Recreation Department and individuals spread throughout 16 additional city departments and community entities. Together, the group plans to bring more attention to the plentiful city programs while helping residents improve their health. Specifically, FitPHX concentrates on teaching nutrition, maintaining healthy worksites, curbing childhood and adult obesity, and promoting walking, bicycling, and public transportation.
Problem Solving Early On
With about one third of Phoenician kids struggling with excess body weight, the need for change is dire. Opportunities to be active and to learn about eating healthy is one important step in addressing the causes of childhood obesity. The co-director of the Mayo Clinic and Obesity Solutions Initiative Dr. James Levine says, “It really makes sense to invest in resolving obesity, and if we do it here, I think Phoenix could be a landmark. This is a landmark opportunity to show America, to show the rest of the world that if we do this as a city together, we can win.”
FitPhx-sponsored efforts like International Walk to School Day, after-school health and nutrition programs for students, and classes that teach parents and kids how to read food labels are playing a major role in the quest to tackle childhood obesity early on. Adrienne Udarbe, who works for the Arizona Department of Health Services, explains that these programs position children for healthier and more successful futures, especially if adopted early on.
All Ages Access
Kids aren’t the only ones who can have healthy fun — the weekly Meet Me Downtown 5K walk and run inspires residents of all ages to head downtown and get moving. The vibrant event showcases downtown parks and culture and features discounts on food and drink, so the socializing continues into the night.
The FitPHX website lists the many health and wellness programs and classes available for patrons of every age. From youth sports leagues to senior exercise classes and nutrition classes for young and old alike, the initiative ensures that the community will grow and change together.
As the entire city gets healthier, residents can rely on SingleCare for an extensive network of affordable and dependable primary care doctors. Regular check-ups and preventative care can be key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. For the 14.5% of Arizona’s population without health insurance, SingleCare offers a practical solution.
(Main image credit: purestock/Thinkstock)