Panel targets policy change for healthier livingStep by step, the Healthier Douglas County Coalition is setting up a roadmap for a lifestyle change. Members have linked into yearlong training from to the Healthier Wisconsin Leadership Institute, tapped into grant opportunities and made strides toward launching a website.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Step by step, the Healthier Douglas County Coalition is setting up a roadmap for a lifestyle change. Members have linked into yearlong training from to the Healthier Wisconsin Leadership Institute, tapped into grant opportunities and made strides toward launching a website.
“The ultimate goal is we want a healthier community,” said Lynne Bauer, public health nurse.
That can’t be accomplished with mere health fair appearances and brochures.
“We’re focusing on policy-level change,” said Mary Mahan, public health nutritionist with Northwest Wisconsin Community Services Agency. “We’re looking at changing things for youth and families long-term.”
There’s lot to change. Thirty-three percent of Douglas County residents are overweight and another 29 percent are obese, according to the 2010 Bridges to Health Survey. Of the 29 percent who are obese, Mahan said, only three percent view themselves as obese.
“It’s the norm that people are overweight,” said Jenice Kienzle, coordinator for academic service learning at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.
National numbers are even higher. About one-third of adults in the U.S. are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That has a ripple effect in increased health costs, food costs and other areas. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.
“We’re all affected by an unhealthy community,” said Krissi Patterson, assistant director of campus recreation at UWS.
The coalition has developed three different workgroups.
One plans to target a specific neighborhood in Superior to work with. Coalition members will find ways to recognize assets and needs for a healthier neighborhood and introduce new initiatives at both the school and community levels. Efforts could include increasing daily activity time for students, decreasing the amount of chocolate milk being consumed at school and introducing a walking school bus.
An events group will support and develop healthy community activities in Douglas County.
The third group will focus on social marketing, getting the word out about the coalition and its goals.
“We want to empower people to make healthier choices for the next generation,” Bauer said.
As the coalition moves ahead, more members are needed. To learn more about the coalition, stop by their information booth during Winterfest, which takes place from 5:30-7:30 p.m. today at Northwestern Elementary School. Or contact Grace Gee with UW-Extension in Douglas County at firstname.lastname@example.org or (715) 395-1427.
There are already ways to make a stand for health. Bikers and walkers are encouraged to stop by a public information meeting on the Belknap Street improvement project being planned for 2016 hosted by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. The meetings run noon to 1:30 p.m. and 5-6:30 p.m. Feb. 28 in room 270 of the Government Center.
“We just want to put our two cents in that we support the complete streets where they would have bike lanes,” Mahan said. “That of course would help increase physical activity.”
“This is exactly something that is a bigger picture change for a community to be more welcoming,” Patterson said.
Project leader Stephanie King with the DOT said that’s the kind of public input they are seeking. If people are interested in bike lanes, trees, curb extensions or other options, now is the time to voice that opinion.
“We can’t even look at it if you don’t bring it up and you’re not specific about what it is,” King said.
She encouraged people interested in making Belknap a complete street to define what that means to them – whether it’s having bike lanes or trees to shade pedestrians. Everything will be considered.
“We don’t make promises,” King said. “We will definitely look at all the items that are requested” and see what is feasible.
Both bike lanes and trees are part of the 2013 Tower Avenue project, King said, but the design stage is not yet finished. Information on the Tower Avenue project is available at www.dot.state.wi.us/ plans and projects link. Click on Douglas County. The Belknap Street project will be added to the site soon, King said.