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Transforming the community

Posted by Shefali Ranganathan at Aug 31, 2012 11:55 AM |
Pierce County is working on new ways to battle health concerns in the community.

Obesity, heart disease, diabetes and stroke rates in Pierce County are some of the highest rates in all of Washington State. This has recently become a major concern for public officials and residents of Pierce County. Statistics from the Tacoma-Pierce County Heath Department show that on average 80% of 10th graders do not receive the recommended 60 minutes of exercise daily, 75% of adults do not eat enough fruits and vegetables, 16% of adults and 15% of 10th graders smoke and 30% of adults are obese. These numbers raise a lot of concern for the health and well being of Pierce County. Action must take place soon in order to transform Pierce County into a healthier and more active community. No single organization, community group or business can change these numbers on their own because collaboration between all community members is extremely necessary.

In the fall of 2011, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention awarded the TPCHD a Community Transformation grant, which provided almost $800,000 per year for five years to help break down barriers to achieve better health in Pierce County. To combat this major issue, the Health Department along with five community coalitions and local officials have teamed up to create the Community Transformation Partnership. The goal of this partnership is to transform Pierce County into a healthy and livable community everyone can enjoy.

Over the next five years, the partnership will be focusing on five main goals including, health equity, active transportation, tobacco-free living, healthy eating and active living and clinical and community health. Health equity’s goal is to ensure that all residents of Pierce County have the opportunity to make the right choices and decisions in order to live a healthier life.

Transportation Choices Coalition is assisting with the active transportation goal, which includes planning safe and comfortable streets for pedestrians, bicyclists and people of all ages and abilities, as well as making transportation accessible for all. The goal of the tobacco-free living is to create tobacco free environments, so people can live, learn, and play in a clean area without the harmful effects of secondhand smoke and cigarette litter. Healthy eating and active living is making sure that children have the opportunity to be active before, during and after school, as well as having healthy food options available throughout the community. The last goal, clinical and community health, is helping to prevent heart attacks and stroke through working with health care providers, hospitals and community organizers.

Because active transportation is so critical in contributing to a healthy lifestyle, the City of Tacoma was awarded a $1 million federal grant to help fund a 13-mile active transportation corridor. With this grant, streets will become safer for all commuters. It will also encourage more people to commute around the city on foot, bike or public transit. Funding for this project is supported by the Coalition for Active Transportation.

The Coalition for Active Transportation has been working hard for the last year to encourage healthy living and active transportation in Pierce County. The mission of the coalition is to plan streets that are safe and highly accessible for all people. The coalition is also working to establish Complete Streets in Pierce County, which would further enhance the accessibility and safety of the streets. The benefits of Complete Streets are endless! They balance the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and motorists, provide people of all ages and abilities safe and comfortable transportation options, make it safe to walk and bike around a neighborhood and create vibrant, livable and healthy communities where all people can thrive. The coalition is working hard to make affordable transportation available throughout of all of Pierce County because ensuring that everyone can afford to get to work, school and other essential destinations is extremely important.

Getting active is the first step to living a healthier life and getting involved in the community is even easier! There are plenty of events held every month that encourage and support a healthy lifestyle, such as:
•    Park(ing) Day: September 21st, 10am-2pm. Downtown Tacoma.
•    Shake Your Shape: September 22nd, 9am. Wright Park, Tacoma.
•    Annual Bike/Ped Counts: September 25-27th 7-9am and 4-6pm. Countywide locations.
•    Tobacco-free Alliance of Pierce County Annual Summit: December 7th.
For more information on the Coalition for Active Transportation or any of the upcoming events, visit http://www.tpchd.org/environment/community-transformation/.

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