• Mobile app connects citizens to Healthier Independence

  • Building a Healthier Independence has gone high-tech.

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  • Building a Healthier Independence has gone high-tech.
    The city of Independence recently developed its first mobile application, Get Healthy Independence, as part of the five-year, grant-funded initiative. Jason Newkirk, application development manager for the Technology Services Department, gave a brief demonstration of the app at Monday’s City Council study session.
    “One of the reasons that I’m really excited about this project is that the way that citizens are communicating with the city has changed a lot over the last few years,” Newkirk said. “If you go and ask the average citizen, they haven’t walked into City Hall in years, but our website, for example, we’ve had over 120,000 visitors every single month consistently for the last decade.”
    In an effort to get citizens the information they need to make healthy living choices in Independence, the app incorporates parks, community gardens, farmers markets and trails. Under each category, users are able to access contact information and features, as well as where certain types of parks and trails are available.
    The city chose to implement the app first through the Android platform because it had the largest market share at the time, Newkirk said. Next, the app will be implemented for the iPhone.
    “We’re trying to hit the largest number of citizens, so that’s why we chose Android first,” Newkirk said, “but you’ll be able to get it for your iPhone hopefully here pretty soon.”
    In addition to developing mobile apps for the public, the city is looking to make employee-specific apps to increase productivity of field service, such as code enforcement.
    “We’ve got a lot of good ideas on how we can increase the productivity of those employees,” Newkirk said.
    First launched in March 2011, Building a Healthier Independence information is available through several social media outlets, including Facebook, and its website also was recently redesigned.
    Christina Heinen, program coordinator for Building a Healthier Independence, provided a brief update on the program and its accomplishments in 2012.
    Among those achievements include the following:
    • The installation of three emergency blue phones along the Little Blue Trace Trail;
    • The installation of 45 smoke-free park signs;
    • An increase in Sermon Center membership by 16 percent this year and by 55 percent since March 2011;
    • Sponsoring three walk-to-school day events;
    • Implementing healthier options in vending machines at city facilities;
    • Building six community gardens; and
    • Working with non-chain restaurants in Independence that plan to voluntarily begin posting caloric values on menus.
    In September, the Independence Health Department also began offering smoking cessation classes at no cost to citizens for the first time. On Tuesday, the city announced that due to popular demand, free smoking cessation classes will continue. New sessions begin Oct. 26 and will run for six weeks.
    Page 2 of 2 - Also, because of the popularity of the inaugural Park Trot this April at Waterfall Park, Building a Healthier Independence is bringing the event back for a second year on May 4, 2013.
    Through the Social Innovation for Missouri and the Community Transformation grants, Independence Health Department in 2011 received more than $1 million throughout the next five years to complete the initiative.
    The program’s five objectives include increasing physical activity; increasing healthy food choices; decreasing tobacco usage; increasing the use of high-impact quality clinical preventative services; and promoting healthy and safe physical environments for Independence residents.
    “All of this would be for naught if our citizens didn’t know how many wonderful opportunities they have to be healthier,” Heinen said.

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