State League Health and Wellness Initiatives
The Arkansas Municipal League (AML) has a well-developed program to promote health and wellness as part of its risk management program. The league also recently held a meeting in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Center to Prevent Childhood Obesity to focus on the need for state and local policy change to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic. In addition, AML partners with the YEF Institute, the Foundation for the Mid South and the state health department in helping 19 small and rural communities implement policy and environmental changes that will help reduce childhood obesity rates through the two-year Municipal Leadership for Healthy Southern Cities initiative funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through its Leadership for Healthy Communities national program.
The YEF Institute and the Foundation for the Mid South have used a "train-the-trainer" approach to build the capacity of state leagues and state health departments to provide cities with guidance and assistance. Since the spring of 2010, the YEF Institute has also been working intensively with Little Rock and North Little Rock to support the development and implementation of community wellness plans. 2011 NLC President James E. Mitchell, Jr., Councilmember of Charlotte, N.C., and YEF Institute Senior Fellow spoke at the recent AML annual convention, highlighting the YEF Institute's partnership with AML to help city leaders reduce childhood obesity in their communities.
In the October 2011 issue of its City and Town magazine, the Arkansas Municipal League highlighted a Healthy Foods and Active Living Summit hosted by the City of Little Rock to highlight solutions to the nation's childhood obesity epidemic. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola, and YEF Institute Senior Fellow Leon Andrews were among the speakers who emphasized the value of public-private partnerships in expanding access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity. Mayor Stodola announced city policies to offer healthier choices in municipal building vending machines, and encouraged residents to go one week without using a car.
The Institute for Local Government (ILG), the nonprofit research and education affiliate of the League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties, launched the Communities for Healthy Kids (CHK) program with support from Anthem Blue Cross Foundation. This three-year effort sought to develop innovative strategies for cities and counties to identify and enroll children eligible for no- and low-cost health insurance. Ten communities received assistance with program design and implementation assistance, while other cities and counties received initial organizational and technical assistance.
Applying best practices and lessons learned from the CHK program, ILG created a new Insuring Kids' Health Online Resource Center to help cities and counties connect families with affordable health insurance for children. The site provides information on how cities can start new initiatives or adjust existing efforts to expand access to affordable insurance. The resource center, which was highlighted in an Oct. 2010 webinar hosted by the YEF Institute and ILG, also includes information that is applicable to other states beyond California.
A video produced by ILG encapsulates the goals and information of the CHK program and includes testimonials from California city and county officials on the benefits of helping families find affordable health insurance for their children. ILG also produced a local officials' guide on Helping Families Find Affordable Health Insurance for their Children.
In collaboration with the California Cities Counties Schools Partnership (CCS Partnership) and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, the League of California Cities (LCC) organizes the Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Cities Campaign to help cities adopt policies to promote healthy lifestyles. The HEAL Cities Campaign offers free seminars for mayors, councilmembers, city managers, and planning, human resources, and redevelopment agency directors focusing on steps cities can take to improve physical activity and retail food environments.
According to the Campaign, childhood obesity costs the state more than $41 billion annually in health care and lost productivity. The HEAL Cities Campaign website includes numerous resources, including examples of city policies and zoning regulations to promote pedestrian and bike-friendly street design, support farmers' markets, increase recreational opportunities, and limit the number of unhealthy food outlets. LCC and the CCS Partnership have partnered with the YEF Institute since 2005 to identify effective municipal strategies for combating childhood obesity through a series of regional forums held in California and Connecticut.
In addition, the ILG's Healthy Neighborhoods project provides resources to improve community health through local land use, planning and other policies and decisions related to healthy eating and active living. ILG's guide on "Understanding the Basics of Land Use and Planning: Guide to Planning Healthy Neighborhoods" identifies tools and resources that local officials can use in making land use and planning decisions that promote community health and well-being.
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities' (CCM) "Get Moving Connecticut" initiative, a partnership between the state league and the Connecticut Commission on Children, involved a series of regional forums that sought to raise awareness among municipal officials of the leadership roles they can play in preventing childhood obesity, highlight promising practices and policies, and present these leaders with strategic options and potential partnerships.
The Louisiana Municipal Association partners with the YEF Institute, the Foundation for the Mid South and the state health department to help 8 small and rural communities implement policy and environmental changes that will help reduce childhood obesity rates through the two-year Municipal Leadership for Healthy Southern Cities initiative funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through its Leadership for Healthy Communities national program. The YEF Institute and the Foundation for the Mid South have used a "train-the-trainer" approach to build the capacity of state leagues and state health departments to provide cities with guidance and assistance. Since the spring of 2010, the YEF Institute has also been working intensively with Baton Rouge to support the development and implementation of a community wellness plans.
The Michigan Municipal League's (MML) Center for 21st Century Communities (21c3) initiative is promoting physical design and walkability as one of eight key assets of a viable community. Through the 21c3 initiative, MML offers its member cities a wide variety of resources, including a website where local officials can find the "walk score" and "transit score" of their communities. 21c3 also provides cities with technical services and solutions in developing master plans, ordinances, zoning and planning codes, and practices that promote walkable neighborhoods. MML has hosted several regional seminars on this topic and MML staff are working with state legislators in promoting walkability through downtown redevelopment.
As part of the two-year Municipal Leadership for Healthy Southern Cities initiative, the Mississippi Municipal League is partnering with the YEF Institute, the Foundation for the Mid South and the state health department in helping 9 small and rural communities implement policy and environmental changes that will help reduce childhood obesity rates. The initiative is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through its Leadership for Healthy Communities national program.
The YEF Institute and the Foundation for the Mid South have used a "train-the-trainer" approach to build the capacity of state leagues and state health departments to provide cities with guidance and assistance. Local officials formed a peer learning network to discuss effective practices in expanding access to recreational opportunities and healthy foods. Since the spring of 2010, the YEF Institute has also been working intensively with Jackson and Tupelo, Miss., to support the development and implementation of community wellness plans. The project's first cross-site meeting took place in Jackson on Nov. 16-17, 2010. YEF Institute Senior Fellow Leon Andrews led a workshop on this issue at the MML convention in Biloxi, Miss. Mayor Chip Johnson of Hernando, Miss.; Mayor Melvin L. "Kip" Holden of Baton Rouge, La.; and Mayor Otis S. Johnson of Savannah, Ga., co-chaired the initiative.
In a separate effort, the MML Board of Directors recently passed a resolution to eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke in worksite and public indoor places. The resolution focuses on the public health risks of exposure to secondhand smoke, and cites the 2009 Mississippi Social Climate Survey of Tobacco Control, which indicates that three out of four adults in the state would support a law prohibiting smoking indoors at workplaces. The league resolution encourages members to promote the Smokefree Air Mississippi initiative led by the Mississippi State Department of Health, and endorses enactment of statewide, comprehensive smokefree air legislation.
In partnership with the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, the New Jersey State League of Municipalities plays a lead role in sponsoring the Mayors Wellness Campaign. The Campaign equips mayors and other local leaders with the tools to develop and implement active living initiatives in their communities. The ultimate goal of the Campaign is to improve health and quality of life, while reducing the skyrocketing health care costs associated with obesity. The Campaign responds to several disturbing trends affecting both the state and the nation: 57 percent of New Jersey residents are obese or overweight; New Jersey has the highest incidence of obesity among low-income 2-5 year olds; and medical expenses for treating obesity-related problems in New Jersey in 2001 totaled $2.3 billion.
The campaign website offers tools and resources to help communities with land use planning and zoning that encourages physical activity and creates walking and biking programs, as well as examples of promising practices from New Jersey communities and other cities throughout the country. In addition, the site offers communications tools for mayors, city councilmembers, and other municipal leaders to draw attention to community wellness initiatives. Finally, the site lists cities in New Jersey in which mayors have signed a pledge to join the Mayors Wellness Campaign, promote active living and healthier lifestyles, and evaluate and report on programs implemented in their communities. More than half of New Jersey's 566 municipalities are currently participating in the campaign.
Let's Move Cities, Towns and Counties
First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign is a nationwide initiative to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation. As part of that campaign, Let's Move Cities, Towns and Counties encourages municipal and county officials to take simple steps that promote healthy eating and physical activity, and adopt long-term approaches to reducing childhood obesity.
State municipal leagues have joined the YEF Institute in playing an important leadership role to enlist local support for Let's Move Cities, Towns and Counties. The League of Arizona Cities and Towns Executive Committee and the Florida League of Mayors each voted to send a draft resolution supporting Let's Move Cities, Towns and Counties to their member cities. The League of California Cities Board unanimously passed a resolution supporting the initiative. The Illinois Municipal League featured Let's Move Cities, Towns and Counties as a cover story in the October issue of Review Magazine and also adopted a Board resolution. The Maryland Municipal League conducted direct outreach to members that were not yet signed on.
The Iowa League of Cities and Towns emailed a joint letter with the regional U.S. Department of Health and Human Services director and included information in conference bags. Articles have also appeared in league journals and newsletters in Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming. There are many steps leagues can take to highlight this important nationwide initiative to reduce childhood obesity, including:
- Adopting a Board resolution in support of Let's Move Cities, Towns and Counties and/or disseminating sample resolutions that member cities can adopt;
- Sharing materials at upcoming league meetings;
- Reaching out to league committees focused on health and/or community wellness;
- Identifying champion mayors who can engage in peer-to-peer outreach; and
- Conducting direct outreach to league members that have not yet signed on.
Recognizing the YEF Institute's and state municipal leagues' leadership on this issue, the White House partnered with NLC and state leagues to promote the Let's Move Cities, Towns and Counties initiative in collaboration with Department of Heatlh and Human Services (HHS) regional offices. David Agnew, White House Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, personally briefed state league directors at their summer meeting in Annapolis, Md., and requested their help in promoting participation at the municipal level.
Directors of the nine regional HHS offices have worked with state municipal league directors and staff to discuss additional steps to engage cities in the Let's Move! initiative. More than 600 communities across the nation have signed on to this effort. Participating communities received a toolkit created by the White House featuring strategies for combating childhood obesity, as well as a list of federal resources that can be used to promote healthy eating and active living. They also received a certificate from the First Lady, various opportunities to gain visibility for local efforts, invitations to participate in conference calls with Let's Move! staff, and access to a monthly webinar series on specific topics related to childhood obesity.