On the HEALS of Change

Colorado Springs, CO | January 2015 | By Brian Kates

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With “Lilly” and so many others as an inspiration, the City of Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department was successful in bringing forward and receiving passage, on December 9, 2014, of a City Council resolution to designate Colorado Springs, Colorado as a Healthy Eating, Active Living (HEAL) municipality. An initiative of LIveWell Colorado, the HEAL Cities & Towns Campaign has been successful in supporting local governments to develop and implement policies that support what essentially the NRPA Out of School Time grant seeks to support across the continuum of health. In seeking its passage, this grant and the OWG curriculum was referenced frequently and was often the conduit that brought the community members from all sectors together.

The collaboration of community partners was extensive and included the local health department, a healthy catering business, running and bicycling shops, nonprofit organizations, the Convention and Visitors Bureau and local universities and school district. With their support, Parks and Recreation staff helped bring voice and attention to the important role that government plays in ensuring that all of its citizens have access and opportunity to be healthy. Even in politically conservative community, passage of this resolution passed on a 6-2 vote.

Though only a few months have passed, impacts of this designation are already being felt. Leading by example, the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department has taken action to develop a policy for its advisory board meetings in which healthy foods would be the norm and sugary foods such as traditional donuts would be phased out. “We are pleased to offer healthier snacks for our Board and Community members each month for our open public meetings. It was a great way to lead by example in providing the community members healthier choices!” says Karen Palus, department director.

As the 14th century proverb so beautifully states, “mighty oaks from little acorns grow”. As these programs and opportunities are introduced to an increasing number of children, particularly those residing within underserved neighborhoods, deserts will start to give rise to a large forest that is rooted in food security, healthy food access and supervised play spaces. Together there is no obstacle that cannot be achieved!