HEAL Cities Campaign marks citys commitment to promoting a healthy environment

by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: ROBIN JOHNSON - Beth Kaye, HEAL Cities Campaign manager, sits before the Scappoose City Council to explain the dangers of increasing obesity rates and how joining the HEAL campaign might better position the city to build an environment that fosters healthy living.Scappoose city councilors on Tuesday, Dec. 3, voted unanimously to pass a resolution to join the Healthy Eating Active Living Cities Campaign.

The campaign is an 18-month-old joint venture between the League of Oregon Cities and the Oregon Public Health Institute aimed at curbing obesity-related chronic diseases. By joining the campaign, the city may be better positioned to receive grants for certain projects related to the promotion of good health.

The campaign will align the city with League of Oregon Cities’ policies and national best practices for health; better position the city and community partners for grants to build infrastructure that supports a healthy community; and allow the city access to HEAL’s public relations and marketing resources.

“I originally brought it to council because I thought it meshed well with goals council had already set,” said Scappoose Mayor Scott Burge. “One of they ways [the campaign will help] is the ability to get grants in those areas for trails and gardens. It also helps us focus the community on those goals.”

Beth Kaye, HEAL Cities Campaign manager, gave a presentation to the council outlining the benefits of joining the campaign. If the city were to seek a grant for “healthy living” projects, such as a new bike path or urban farm, being a HEAL city, Kaye said, raises a flag to donors that Scappoose is focused on health.

Kaye noted that the city does have some “healthy living” options, such as the Crown Zellerbach Trail and a farmers’ market, but added the campaign could take the city to the “next step.”

The HEAL Cities Campaign, Kaye said, can help provide cities with access to information on implementing “specific zoning codes that could make it easier to create community gardens, mobile kitchens, produce wagons or urban [agriculture].”

The city did not have to qualify to be a heal city.

“You just have to pass that resolution and work to implement some of those concepts,” Burge said. “There is a self-imposed review every six months to review our progress with the resolution.”

Kaye told the councilors that, although recent studies indicate obesity levels are on the rise, the “epidemic” is avoidable and the City Council can play an important role in curtailing obesity rates. Kaye added that the campaign can help the city focus on building an environment that fosters healthy living.

She also cited statistics indicating rising obesity rates in Oregon and Columbia County, the latter having higher obesity rates than the state average.

“It’s hard to tell people to make healthy choices if there aren’t options available in the community,” she said.

“This seems like something, I think, that would be good for the public to know the council is behind,” said Councilor Jason Meshell before moving to approve the resolution. “And if it puts us on a list to potentially get grants to help us live, work and play better in Scappoose, I completely support it.”

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