places2040 has 17 Partners for Place - community organizations that are committed to planning for a better future for Lancaster County. Why do they care about places2040? Brenda Buescher from Lancaster General Health and the Lighten Up Lancaster County Coalition tells us about how health and community design are closely connected!
Lancaster County is a special place where many individuals and organizations are working together to create an environment where people can live long, healthy lives. Lancaster General Health strives to improve the health of the community we serve, and being part of places2040 is an excellent opportunity to plan for the future health of Lancaster County residents.
Through the Lighten Up Lancaster County Coalition, we aim to increase the number of adults and children in Lancaster County who are at a healthy weight. In Lancaster County, 28% of adults and 14% of children are obese and at risk for future health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. Most Americans do not reach the recommended amount of daily physical activity, and most of us also don’t eat enough healthy fruits and vegetables.
Healthy communities are designed to support physical activity, encourage healthy eating habits, promote mental well-being, and prevent unintentional injuries. There is strong evidence that improving access to places for physical activity increases physical activity and improves physical fitness in urban, rural, and suburban areas. Planning for parks and trails helps create safe spaces where people can be physically active, and these green spaces also improve mental well-being and quality of life. It is important that we plan to build these resources where they are most needed, because national studies show that low-income and minority neighborhoods have limited access to safe spaces for physical activity.
Transportation planning that supports biking, walking, and public transportation increases physical activity, in addition to improving air quality and improving access to goods, services, and job opportunities. For elderly people and people with disabilities, transportation options are especially important for maintaining a healthy, independent lifestyle. Traditional walkable neighborhoods also increase social connections with friends and neighbors, which supports physical and mental health. To ensure the safety of people walking, biking, and driving, transportation planners encourage “Complete Streets” that are built for all users.
Zoning that supports farmers markets and healthy food vendors can improve the local food environment, support business development, and encourage pedestrian foot traffic. Cities in California and Minnesota have streamlined the process to approve new farmers markets, making it easier for small farmers to open fruit and vegetable stands. By encouraging land use that preserves farmland, creates opportunities for community gardens, and incorporates healthy food stores into neighborhoods, we can support good nutrition habits.
At Lancaster General Health, we provide coordinated and affordable high-quality care to patients every day. However, to improve the health of this community, we cannot act alone. We are dedicated to collaborating with partners in non-health sectors. By becoming a partner for place with the Lancaster County Planning Commission, we are making a commitment to help build a community where every county resident can live a healthy lifestyle. Our vision for 2040 is a Lancaster County where people live, work, and play in places that support their physical, mental, and social well-being.
To learn more about our current efforts to increase physical activity and promote healthy eating in the community, visit the Lighten Up Lancaster County coalition webpage at www.lightenuplancaster.org.