Modern health epidemics solvable by community design
Imagine living in a Boone where every road has been built with
the intent of allowing walkers, bicyclists, motor vehicles and the AppalCART equal access.
You may walk or bicycle to work or school without fear of being run over. Children have “play dates” by simply meeting neighborhood friends next to a stream, on a sidewalk, or on bikes. Fresh, healthy, affordable food is accessible to all.
Last week, community leaders had the privilege of spending time with Mark Fenton, a nationally recognized public health and “built environment” expert. Mark is passionate about changing the way we have been building our communities to combat the twin epidemics of inactive lifestyles and poor nutrition in our country.
Our next generation may be the first in recent history to have shorter life-spans than ancestors, thanks to chronic diseases brought on by modern society-inflicted epidemics. Included are some cancers, high blood pressure, diabetes and diseases of the heart.
The only way to fix rising health care costs is to look at the root of the problem. Bottom line: It’s very difficult to take care of our basic needs of physical movement and a healthy diet anywhere in the U.S., except in a few communities who have made strong efforts to address the local environment.
Even though we know how good physical activity is for us, less than 25 percent of adults get the 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week minimum that’s recommended for health benefits. The recommendation for children is one hour per day or more, which even fewer achieve.
Mark contends that we need to entirely change the way our communities are developed to make a difference in childhood health and quality and length of life for the next generation. Instead of building another ugly big box store that is only accessible by car, communities should think of ways to enrich central areas that are accessible by all modes of transportation.
As a society, we should make it easy to get the recommended 30 minutes a day of movement without planning a stop at the gym. Simply walking or riding a bicycle as a form of transit could add up to 30 minutes and big health and societal benefits. Our entire community has to realize the importance of this idea.
To begin with, our leaders have to make certain that walkers, bicyclists, AppalCART and motor vehicles are treated as equals when roads are built or improved. Community leaders also need to be proponents of farmers’ markets by allowing them to utilize public land when available, pro bono or with minimal fees, to make fresh produce more affordable.
As citizens, we have to be vocal about supporting the efforts. When community meetings for Department of Transportation, county, or town improvement projects are happening, be there to voice your opinion about the importance of treating all modes of transport as equals. Let community decision makers and planners know how important local farmers’ are to us, and why they need inexpensive locations to sell healthy food.
With cool weather infiltrating the High Country, soup season has returned. This recipe serves four to six, but consider doubling and freezing some for a busy day.
Butternut Harvest Stew
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
1½ pounds lean, boneless pork or chicken, cut in ¾ inch cubes (preferably purchased from a local farmer)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
Heat butter or olive oil over medium low to medium heat in soup pot.
Add ingredients and sauté until meat is no longer pink.
3 cups chicken broth
¼ teaspoon crushed rosemary
¼ teaspoon rubbed or ground sage
1 bay leaf
Add, cover and simmer for 20 minutes
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped
2 medium apples, chopped
Add and simmer until squash and apples are tender, around 20 minutes. Discard bay leaf and serve.
Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups. To contact Margie, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (828) 264-3061.