Thank you, Pittsburgh, for giving residents and visitors safer streets for walking, biking, and increased physical activity!
"I promise to make one healthy choice every day to keep my engine strong."
Those are the words of the Healthy Highway pledge, which every student says when they participate in the program. The Healthy Highway program was developed by PreventObesity.net Leader Wendy Cooper, a physical education specialist, to help children embrace healthy living concepts into their daily lives. The program aims to empower children and families to make healthy choices through the use of educationally sound concepts by using fun imaginative traffic metaphors.
“I was a physical education specialist for 30 years,” Cooper said. “Over the last five years of my teaching I developed the safety part of my curriculum based on traffic signs. Each sign has a safety slogan. For example: a traffic light meant ‘stop, look and listen’; a yield sign was ‘watch out for others, slow down and pass carefully.’ My students became ‘cars’ and had to drive carefully in the gym.”
Cooper says the transition to incorporate nutrition education was simple. The road signs took on nutrition concepts, for instance, a yield sign means to watch out for oils, slow down on fats and pass by sugar. Just like car engines need gasoline for fuel, our bodies need fuel in the form of various food groups, and the metaphors help children embrace the need to make healthier choices and maintain a high-performance body.
“This was our first year on the Healthy Highway, and my son was very excited to help pack his lunch since he knew that for every green light food he had, he earned a point for school. He did not want a red light food,” shared Nicole, whose son is in kindergarten.
Recently, the Healthy Highways program received the local Chamber of Commerce Community Health Award. The Award recognizes a local business dedicated to improving the health and enriching the lives of the youth in the community.
This year the program also partnered with the local police department and turned Healthy Highways into a school-wide pilot program. Three officers were ‘trained’ in the program’s concepts and then participated in monthly visits to the school. They talked to the students about the healthy choices they made and why, challenged the school to make 500 healthy choices in one week (a lofty goal!), and handed out badge stickers at the end of the year.
The greatest challenge, Cooper says, is finding enough time to talk with administrators and educators about the ease of implementation of the program.
Students have embraced the program, and have used their imaginations to expand on the nutrition concepts in creative ways. Some schools have started their own gardens, a second grade class has student ‘chefs’ that serve healthy snacks to their classmates, and one class has written rap songs. Cooper also recalled a fifth grade class that created comic strips based on the Healthy Highways concepts.
“The best part is to watch the excitement on the faces of the children I meet when they tell me about their healthy choices, and the pride in their voices as they tell me they love being on the Highway,” Cooper said.
For more information on Healthy Highways, click here.
Two new complete streets and equity reports have been released and are the result of a project to study equity elements in complete streets policies, the characteristics of communities with equity elements in their policies, and to qualitatively understand how equity elements in complete streets policies are being implemented in practice. Learn more about the reports here.
Eight applicants have been awarded funds that will help young students walk, bike and roll safely to and from school.
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Leaders are people who are actively working - either professionally or as volunteers - to change policies and environments to help children eat better and be more active. We use the following criteria to evaluate whether to approve an applicant for Leader status with the Voices for Healthy Kids Action Center.
Do you meet the criteria below? If so, register as a Leader here. There is no cost to be a Leader.
At least one item must be checked within each of the following two categories:
1. Applicant is focused on changing policies and environments
They are working on one of Voices for Healthy Kid's six issue areas:
Ensure foods and beverages in schools meet dietary guidelines
Expand community access to high quality food
Expand physical activity programs in and out of school
Improve built environment in communities to increase physical activity
Use pricing strategies to promote purchase of healthier foods
Use regulation/policy to reduce youth exposure to unhealthy food marketing
They are working on other obesity-related issues, such as:
Their primary focus is working on individual behavior (e.g., teaching kids about food, play, etc.), but they have access to organizations that could provide opportunities to change environments, such as
Public Health Agencies
Their project is commercial, but contributes positively to changing policies and environments, such as:
2. Applicant is organizing others or contributing to organizing efforts
They are organizing others by:
Providing volunteer opportunities
Building contact lists of supporters to engage in advocacy
They provide support to organizations or leaders doing work changing policies and environments, such as:
They are a leader in a governmental body that may be the target of organizing efforts to change policies and environments, such as a:
Federal or state agency
Mayor or other local executive office
Federal, state, county or local public health department
Federal, state, county or transportation department
Federal, state or local education agency or school board
If the applicant claims to work for an organization, at least one item must be checked below:
3. Applicant works for an organization:
Has an email address that matches the domain of the organization they list
Is listed on the organization website as staff
The Voices for Healthy Kids Action Center is looking for bloggers who can write about issues that matter to our community on a regular basis. If you would like to be considered for this network, please check this box.