A healthy community should be all cities’ goal

Marysville became the first city in Snohomish County to roll out a program to promote healthy activities last year. Other cities should take a serious look at how it could work for them.

The Snohomish Health District stands ready to help cities determine whether they could support a health education program large enough to produce results. The Health District assigns an employee to act as a dedicated health educator to develop an appropriate plan and campaign.

Healthy Communities programs focus on encouraging healthier behavior to prevent medical problems, an effort to save everyone money in the long run by easing the need for long-term care of chronic diseases.

A local group oversees the Marysville program, and includes several employees of the school district, the parks and recreation director, members of the city council and the mayor.

Having school district administrators on the board rightly reinforces the message that children are a major concern. One of Marysville’s laudable priorities is to provide healthy nutrition and exercise options to lower-income students.

City officials are considering the sustainability and functionality of at least one community garden, which would provide a fun and nutritional source of locally grown food. Improving sidewalks and trails is on the list of proposed projects for the city. People will be more likely to exercise if they have a place to go.

Lynnwood is the second city to get involved with the health district’s program. A presentation to the City Council on Monday is expected to be followed by approval, according to Lynn Sordel, the city’s parks and recreation director.

The Healthy Communities program requires a commitment of city resources. That can be a challenge for most cities, which struggle each year to balance priorities within limited revenues. But few investments hold as much promise for long-term payoff.

And outside help may be available. Mount Vernon and Moses Lake, which have similar wellness programs in place, both received grants of state and federal dollars to get their projects off the ground.

Healthy Communities and other programs aimed at changing habits take time to produce meaningful results. They also require the coordination and cooperation of businesses, community groups and government to be effective. None of that is an excuse for not trying.

Obesity rates are growing. If communities do nothing about it, increases in heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes will follow. Marysville, Lynnwood and the Snohomish Health District say that’s not acceptable.

Anyone else agree?

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