All over the country people are obsessing over wellness. In fact, this is probably the 137th blog you have read about this in the past month. But I bet it’s the first blog that’s specific to all the initiatives Brockton is working on to make wellness a priority in our community. If by some chance it’s the second or third, my apologies for the repetition.
For those of you that don’t know, Brockton is a Mass in Motion Community. What does that mean? The City is the recipient of the Mass in Motion Municipal Wellness & Leadership Grant. Now, what does that mean? Mayor Balzotti’s Office is working with the Old Colony YMCA and the other partners of Brockton’s Promise to create better access to active living and healthy eating for Brockton residents. Unlike the Georgia Health Alliance’s recent childhood obesity ad campaign, (whose images of overweight children were seen as offensive and downright hurtful), the wellness initiatives in Brockton are not at all meant to stigmatize kids or adults who are obese. They are, however, meant to address obesity as a public health issue. We are not here to place blame, but rather to change the environment that has helped foster an increased number of overweight and obese people, in Brockton and across America.
Both of Brockton’s zip codes, (02301 and 02302), fall into the state’s top 20 zip codes with the highest obesity rates. Mass in Motion is one of the initiatives Brockton is working on to change this. Wellness doesn’t just mean eating nutritious foods (though it is a part of it); it’s about reevaluating the entire environment—at home, in school and at the workplace. People don’t always realize what a huge role certain aspects of a community can play in determining whether its residents will be healthy or not. Unsafe neighborhoods, an absence of parks for physical exercise, or lack of access to fresh foods in combination with a high density of convenience stores that tend to sell more processed, high caloric foods, are all factors that can lead to an unhealthy community. On the contrary, healthy communities typically have safe neighborhoods where people feel more inclined to walk, run or bike. They also have open spaces and organized places for recreation in the community. While Brockton is fortunate to have some of these resources in our City, we want to do more to make sure that they are available to every resident.
While the community at large plays a role in this, the smaller communities in which we all operate on a daily basis also have an impact. When you think of healthy workplaces, most people assume this means removing soda and candy from the vending machines at the office, but Mass in Motion delves even deeper to look at the overall design of the workplace. For example, in a recent Healthy Start meeting, the Mass in Motion coordinator showed us two pictures of stairwells.
Which staircase would you take? The first one is dingy, sketchy and unwelcoming, while the second one has a nice, inviting atmosphere (and even plays music)! And guess what! It’s the same stairwell; the first one is the before shot and the second is the after shot! The people who work in this particular building told the Mass in Motion coordinators what a difference this change made in the rate of employees who opted to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Similar environmental changes have been made in other communities in the stairwells, at public bus stops, etc. These are the kinds of changes we want to make in Brockton. Diet and exercise will certainly help our residents, but structurally changing the environment will also help us significantly in the long run.
But this is just one piece of the wellness circle of Brockton. Not only is the City “in Motion,” but it’s also a “Let’s Move” City! What is a “Let’s Move” City you may ask? It looks a little something like this…
Okay, well we may not all dance like Beyoncé, but just like us, she is part of First Lady, Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign to get kids moving and making healthy choices. The First Lady launched this campaign so that children born today will grow up healthier and live longer. No matter what side of the political line you fall on, the fact that kids today are the first generation that may not outlive their parents is a startling reality to which everyone can relate. Mass in Motion and Let’s Move are efforts to change that, both nationally and at the local level right here in Brockton.
With all of these great initiatives going on in our City, we have the power to make the nutritional, physical and environmental changes we want to see in the community. Both Mass in Motion and Let’s Move have tips on how you can eat healthier on their websites, like here and here. Let’s Move even has a few fun videos to help kids understand the importance of healthy eating and physical activity, too!
It’s an exciting time for Brockton, and the beauty of it is that so many different people can get involved, from government officials and schools, to faith-based organizations and businesses. Whether it’s painting that stairwell in the office or adding a bowl of apples to the takeout booth at your restaurant, everyone has a role to play in reducing obesity rates and increasing wellness ~ you, me and especially Beyoncé.
For more information about how you can get involved with the Healthy Start team’s plans to bring wellness to our community, email firstname.lastname@example.org!