Lamar-parks-rec-400x400pxLiveWell Prowers County: A Bird’s Eye View

By Leslie Levine, MPH
Technical Assistance and Research Manager, LiveWell Colorado

I often start my blogs by letting people know how long I’ve been working at LiveWell Colorado. It’s been almost 9 years, so I’ve seen a lot of change, a lot of success, and a lot of lessons learned (as we say when things don’t go as planned). Working at the state level, I have a bird’s eye view of community work taking place around the state. I’m not working closely enough to understand the minute details that create the immense changes in our communities, but I see the long term change, sometimes happening by G-d’s will and sometimes happening by intricately devised implementation plans. One community that I have been watching is Prowers County.

This community first received funds to address obesity prevention through a grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initiative with state health departments to fund policies and built environmental changes that would impact access to healthy food and active living. After a bit of turnover in the community coalition coordinator position, Kyle Legleiter, now a Senior Policy Officer at the Colorado Health Foundation, took the helm. I will never forget Kyle’s story about the joy of walking and running through the small town of Lamar that prompted a surprising amount of continuous questions from town residents about whether or not he needed a ride. Back then, around 2008, people weren’t used to seeing their neighbors walking through town unless they lost their license or didn’t own a car.

Fast forward to 2016 and you will see a culture shift in people’s perceptions about active living, being outside and enjoying the recreational opportunities in Lamar and the passion of discussing what can be done to make the city more conducive to regular physical activity whether for play or for active transportation. Emily Nieschburg joined LiveWell Prowers County initially as a dietitian at the High Plains Community Health Center overseeing health coaches whose role was to help people create an individual and REALISTIC action plan to integrate more physical activity and a healthier diet into their daily lives. Upon Kyle’s departure, the fortunate folks with LiveWell Prowers County snapped Emily up to lead this community coalition to the place it is today – an initiative that embraces the voice of community members who haven’t typically been engaged in designing the future of their community. To read more about Emily’s passion and the success that Lamar has seen over the past year, check out this article published in the Lamar Ledger in January.

Note: LiveWell Prowers County applied for and received a 3 year grant in 2013 from the Colorado Health Foundation for the Healthy Places initiatives that aims to increase physical activity by fostering a built environment where it is easier, safer and more appealing to walk, play and engage in daily activities that encourage movement, connection and fun. Since then, the community also received an Inspire planning grant from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) to address the growing disconnect between youth and the outdoors.