Built environment helps keep residents healthy

An environment that makes it easier to get exercise in a community can make for a healthier populations.

Kirk Blaine, the project manager for Blue Zones Project — Umpqua and Chally Kruse, from the Built Environment Committee of the Blue Zones Project, were interviewed by host Lisa Platt on a recent Talking Health program on News Radio 1240 KQEN.

The two talked about some of the challenges for bikers and walkers, and some of the projects that are proposed in central Douglas County to help make it more bike and walk friendly.

The following is a edited version of the interview.

Lisa: What does built environment mean?

Kirk: Built environment encompasses all the areas in which we spend our time – like walking, biking, driving or commuting.

Lisa: Can you tell us about the safe route to school effort you did as part of the Built Environment Initiative?

Kirk: As the name implies, the program is about working to ensure there are safe routes for kids to get to and from certain schools. A bill was recently passed that devotes $10 million to this effort throughout the state.

There are infrastructure and non-infrastructure components to this effort. Non-infrastructure includes raising awareness in the school, determining how many kids are walking and biking to school, if their parents feel comfortable allowing their kids to bike or walk to school, etc.

The infrastructure component is devoted to ensuring the safety of our sidewalks, bike lanes, crosswalks, and so on.

Lisa: Chally, what appealed to you about getting involved in working environment?

Chally: When I’m not working for Blue Zones as a volunteer, I work for Oregon Health Sciences University School of Nursing, where I teach a course called Population Health. It looks at chronic health issues and where nurses can be involved in preventing our population from developing chronic diseases.

This project has expanded my knowledge as an instructor and gives me an opportunity to be involved in a whole different area to share with my students.

Lisa: Kirk, what do you see as the impact that built environment will have on our community’s overall health?

Kirk: It will better enable us to make the decision to walk or bike to the grocery store or elsewhere because we know the safest routes. Natural movement directly aligns with the Power 9 principles of Blue Zones Project and it promotes longevity and better health.

Lisa: So the first schools to be involved in the Safe Routes to School were Green and Eastwood?

Kirk: That’s correct. Carnes Road runs right in front of Green School, so it’s very difficult for kids to get there safely. We were informed that every student is bussed to Green because of safety issues.

Green was an immediate need, and at Eastwood, with our new urban renewal project, we recognized there was a great opportunity for them.

Lisa: Chally, would you tell us what the Walking School Bus concept is?

Chally: At Green School, we did this in conjunction with Bike and Walk to School Day after reading the statistics that 30 years ago, 60 percent of the kids walked or biked to school and now it’s down to the teens.

But it’s an opportunity for the children to walk safely to school with a couple of adults. We had a little yellow school bus that the kids were holding up, and I think it got the attention of the drivers also.

Lisa: Are there plans to add more schools?

Kirk: The plan is to get every school in the district involved that wants to be. Green and Eastwood and have kind of been our pilot programs. Going into the 2018-19 school year, I’m working with new principals to support them in any way we can. The Walking School Bus is just one of the many options that we offer.

Lisa: How does the Walking School Bus help a kid’s ability to focus throughout the day?

Challey: Just by virtue of getting up and moving and breathing more deeply, these kids come to school more alert. That’s the most important thing, but kids who exercise have improved moods, and having those two pieces in place puts a child at their desk ready to learn.

Lisa: What about other projects with the built environment?

Kirk: We’re focusing on several different policies now, working with and supporting the city and their efforts.

One area is a request to use public land in order to possibly develop a community garden, allowing people to grow fresh fruits and vegetables and using that space to help promote health in our community.

In addition, we’re creating an action plan for Safe Routes to School for both Eastwood and Green.

Lisa: Chally, tell us about the walking audits and what the outcome was?

Chally: I and some other people at Green School joined some other groups and spread out through the entire community areas where kids would be walking to school. We were looking for things that might be preventing or inhibiting kids from walking to school and opportunities for increasing the safety of kids who are currently walking.

Lisa: Kirk, what are some of the next efforts of task force teams that you might need volunteers for?

Kirk: We need to raise that awareness. We’re looking at applying for some funding for infrastructure grants through Safe Routes to School, and for that we need investment from our community.

So whether you live close to Green or Eastwood or are involved in the community or have friends there, your voice really helps us make a case for getting funding in the fall.

If the state sees that we already have kids walking to school in groups of 15 to 20 they’re going to see that we would really benefit from these infrastructure projects, that could put a lot of dollars into our community. But we have to show that our community is invested and we’re willing to work.

Lisa: How can people be a voice?

We’re always looking for volunteers that want to help out and make our community a better place to live, learn, work and play.

Source:  | http://www.nrtoday.com/news/health/built-environment-helps-keep-residents-healthy/article_863d4cd8-fcb8-5a5c-adf6-680cc27007c7.html | | |  https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/nrtoday.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/57/75708306-b53e-5097-98b6-a5bcd09214af/5b3c81cbd90a5.image.jpg?resize=595%2C630 |

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