Community forum promotes healthy lifestyle

Livingston County’s Community Health Action Response Team held a community forum on Monday Sept. 24 to discuss the ways in which the county is working to offer healthy choices to all community members.

Partnering with the Livingston County Department of Health, CHART serves as the lead team for the Action Communities for Health, Innovation and Environmental Change initiative, a program that focuses on creating opportunities for people to lead healthier lives within their communities.

A.C.H.I.E.V.E. is a collaborative effort between the Center for Disease Control, the National Association of County and City Health Officials and various other national organizations. In 2011, the organization awarded Livingston County a $25 thousand grant devoted to helping the county implement new health initiatives.

According to Lisa Beardsley, senior public health educator of the Livingston County Department of Health, the grant is “really about making the healthy choices the easy choices.”

The community forum opened with welcoming remarks from Liz Grizwold, the forum moderator, and then a presentation from Program Director of Prevention Institute in California Sana Chehimi.

Chehimi’s presentation, titled “Policy, System and Environmental Change,” discussed the ways in which environments shape behaviors. Chehimi presented ways in which communities can design strategies that have the greatest impact on community health and wellness. These tactics include pushing for policy and legislative changes, changing organizational practices, fostering coalitions and networks, promoting community education and strengthening individual knowledge and skill sets within the community.

“If our environments are not set up to help us, we can’t actually expect people to make healthy choices,” she said. “We have to actually go in and change the environments.”

After Chehimi concluded her presentation, Beardsley, along with certified wellness coordinator of Cornell Cooperative Extension Jean Angililli presented the county’s goals for September 2013.

These include increasing the number of municipalities with improved access to parks, shared-use paths and trails and increasing the number of community worksites that adopt a policy of providing healthy food and beverage options during meetings and events. The county also hopes to increase the number of municipalities that will adopt policies to establish tobacco and smoke-free outdoor public environments.

According to Beardsley, CHART’s vision is for Livingston County to be “the healthiest county in New York state to live, work and play.”

According to Angililli, local examples of policy change include tobacco-free outdoor policies in the Village and Town of Geneseo, the Village of Lima and the Village of Livonia. The county has also used the grant money to pay for a School Health Index, a questionnaire for local schools that helps determine areas for improvement regarding nutrition and physical activity.

The grant has also helped to fund Diabetes K.I.P., a coalition that provides health education to people affected by diabetes.

In addition, the county has put funding into brochures for local biking and hiking trails, which are available in the Livingston County Tourism Office and the Livingston County Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s not a giant grant … but we’ve done a lot with a little,” Angililli said.

The forum concluded with remarks and suggestions from the audience, including calls for a community swimming pool and a larger marketing campaign for local hiking trails.