When you think about being healthy, what comes to mind?
Do you think of the apple you grabbed for a snack today instead of chips? Does it mean drinking one more cup of water than you usually do? How about having good blood pressure and cholesterol levels? Does it mean making time for that 15-minute walk after dinner with your family? Or quitting smoking after 10 years of addiction?
Being healthy can mean many different things to different people.
The Independence Health Department is working with all of these ideas to help improve the overall health of Independence residents through the Building a Healthier Independence Initiative.
BHI works to complete various projects to promote healthy eating, active living, and a tobacco-free lifestyle throughout Independence. The goal is that with the help of BHI, citizens will find it easier and safer to be physically active, make healthy food choices, and reduce tobacco consumption. It is being accomplished through partnerships with multiple city departments, local community partners, and the support of the community.
This initiative is creating many ways for it to be easier and safer to be physically active around the city.
One way this is accomplished is through the annual Independence Park Trot 5K Run/Walk, a free 5K race for the whole family to enjoy. Next year’s race will be on May 3 at Waterfall Park, located just south of Bass Pro Shop.
Other accomplishments include: • A trail guide has been created to display all of the different city trails and parks where citizens can walk, run, bike, or play. • The Mile Starts Here walking program, which is open to all Independence residents. The group meets once a week from the spring to the fall and walks at least one mile at different locations around town to show how easy being active can be in Independence. • The Get Healthy Independence Mobile Phone App is a free download that maps all of the different parks, trails, community gardens, farmer’s markets, and routes for the walking group. BHI also encourages schools and neighborhoods to start walking school bus programs. Healthy eating is another important piece of BHI. The initiative aims to increase the accessibility and availability of healthy foods to our citizens. To accomplish these goals, BHI promotes the two local farmers' markets, the Truman Medical Center Healthy Harvest Mobile Market, and nearly 20 community gardens which bring fresh and local produce to the community. These are great places to get delicious, affordable, and local produce during the summer months. BHI also works to combat the obesity epidemic by encouraging healthier food choices at work. Full-time employees usually eat at least one meal or snack within the workplace environment each day. For that reason, BHI encourages area businesses to implement a healthy vending policy for their vending machines to help make choosing healthier foods easier. BHI also assists in developing local healthy corner stores to bring healthy and affordable food choices to neighborhoods that may not have easy access to a full-service grocer. And last but not least, BHI promotes a tobacco-free lifestyle. BHI is working to reduce tobacco usage in Independence by increasing awareness and working with community members on local policies. BHI helps Independence businesses make their campuses smoke-free. BHI also helps apartment property managers survey residents and create smoke-free policies in complexes to protect the air you breathe. All Independence parks are smoke-free as well to provide an atmosphere of clean air and fun. Through each of these areas, BHI is working very hard to improve the health of our city.
For more information about BHI, contact the Health Department at 816-325-7185 or go to http://www.independence.org/bhi/.
Larry Jones, MPH, is the director of the Independence Health Department.