Public Health Week Promotes Healthy Communities And Healthy Kids

Contact: T.J. Bucholz (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

April 5, 2006

As part of National Public Health Week, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is promoting awareness of a different public health issue each day this week. Active Children Day highlights the importance of designing communities to enable children to be more physically active, a critical solution toward building healthier communities and raising healthier children.

“Children are less fit than they were a generation ago, and without appropriate interventions, many health experts believe that today’s children may be the first generation to be outlived by their parents,” said Janet Olszewski, MDCH Director. “Instilling good health values into our children today will help ensure that they lead healthy lifestyles for a lifetime.”

Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom, Michigan Surgeon General, said that many children are already showing early signs of cardiovascular risk factors such as physical inactivity, excess weight, higher blood cholesterol and cigarette smoking.

“To reduce their risk for chronic disease, children should learn about healthy lifestyles at an early age,” Wisdom said. “A healthy lifestyle includes regular physical activity, a low-saturated-fat, low-cholesterol diet after age 2, smoking prevention, healthy weight and regular pediatric medical checkups.”

The American Heart Association reports that increased physical activity has been associated with an increased life expectancy and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and helps kids with maintaining a healthy weight, reducing blood pressure, raising "good" cholesterol, reducing the risk of diabetes and some kinds of cancer, and improving self-confidence and self-esteem.

Healthy community design can benefit children in many important ways. At a time when obesity and diabetes are rising among children, and when asthma continues to be highly prevalent, it is crucial to seek, understand, and implement environmental design solutions that might help with these health challenges.

One initiative that encourages physical activity through community design is Safe Routes to School. Safe Routes to School is an international movement to make it safe, convenient and fun for children to bicycle and walk to school. When routes are safe, walking or biking to and from school is an easy way to get the regular physical activity children need for good health. 

Safe Routes to School initiatives also help ease traffic jams and air pollution, unite neighborhoods and contribute to students’ readiness to learn in school. A two-year pilot effort to develop resources for local communities was completed last year involving 11 schools and a statewide coalition. For more information on Safe Routes, visit www.saferoutesmichigan.org.

National Public Health Week 2006 focuses on empowering Americans to assess the status of the built environment and children’s health in their communities. Local health departments, community coalitions, schools, businesses, healthcare, and faith-based organizations are encouraged to identify areas for improvement and implement model programs. To assist with this process, electronic toolkits are available online at www.malph.org (click on “Events”).

To learn more about Public Health Week and events taking place across the state this week, visit www.apha.org/nphw.