Cities & Towns Have Big Impact on Residents’ Health
This year’s HEAL Summit brought together municipal leaders, LiveWell communities, and public health professionals from around Colorado and the country to discuss strategies for increasing access to healthy eating and active living (HEAL). LiveWell Colorado’s new CEO Gabriel Guillaume kicked off the summit by urging the attendees to keep using their voices to advance access to healthy behaviors in Colorado, “We have a voice, and we have a responsibility to continue to build and strengthen that voice.”
Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, Chief Medical Officer for Prevention at the American Heart Association, opened the Summit with a rousing speech focusing on health equity and social determinants of health. Dr. Sanchez applauded the work of public health professionals and municipal leaders focusing on the health of their communities noting, “Health happens everywhere, not just clinical settings.” Sharing the World Health Organization’s definition of the social determinants of health, “the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life,” Dr. Sanchez urged the attendees to keep a holistic view of what makes a community healthy.
The second day was kicked off by Jill Gaebler, President Pro-tem of the Colorado Springs City Council. She shared her thoughts on how to steer initiatives focused on HEAL through municipal governments, noting that “You just have to find that one person on council or city staff passionate about these issues to get things moving.”
The Summit took place immediately following the November elections. It was exciting to celebrate the city of Boulder’s victory as the city became one of the first cities in the US to adopt a sugary drink tax. Community food access was another hot topic for Summit-goers. Breakout sessions included discussions on the role municipalities can play for incentive programs like Double Up Food Bucks and other ways local governments can improve access to healthy food including summer meal programs. Attendees were also briefed on the complexities surrounding transportation funding, and in particular, the challenges communities face to secure funding for walking, biking and transit infrastructure.