Public health efforts alone cannot solve the obesity epidemic. Because the causes of obesity are multi-faceted, the solution requires a broad-based approach that considers the environment that people live in. MetroWest Moves is not about introducing a new program. It’s about permanent community transformation: Changing the ways cities and towns grow and develop to accommodate healthier lifestyles.
The benefits go beyond health. For example, streets that provide for safe, convenient, efficient and accessible use by all users – what we call “complete streets” – add to property values, bolster local businesses, and ultimately lead to reduced health care costs.
To move toward healthy neighborhoods, The MetroWest Moves quad-community initiative will focus on these specific initiatives:
- Working with local restaurants to promote healthier dining options.
- Increasing healthy snack and beverage options in community vending machines.
- Incorporating community design standards into transportation planning to enable safe, attractive and comfortable access and travel for all users.
- Working with local communities to implement regional tobacco control regulations and encourage smoke-free housing units
These efforts will require us to create alliances that include traditional as well as non-traditional partners such as land use and transportation planners, housing authorities, the business community, farmers, local and regional government, schools and others. MetroWest Moves envisions a movement to create sustainable partnerships among these sectors that will allow our communities to garner the support needed to implement these strategic initiatives.
MetroWest Moves will gather representatives from communities, local ethnic restaurants and nutrition programs at local colleges. We will help restaurant owners develop healthier versions of recipes. We will also create a toolkit for business owners with nutritional standards, sample menus, and sample marketing materials to help owners promote their participation and raise consumer awareness of healthy menu items.
Healthy Vending Machines
To improve the options available in vending machines throughout the community, MetroWest Moves will partner with employers, institutional managers, employees, and vending machine owners, placing special emphasis on employers in low-income areas with large proportions of minority employees. We will identify vending machine locations, learn about the types of food and drinks typically found in the machines, and the snack options in the area around the facility where the vending machine is located. We will find out when and why people use the vending machines, and what they choose, and what other options they might like to have. We’ll raise awareness of healthier choices, and seek to introduce more healthy choices into vending machines.
MetroWest Moves will work with key local stakeholders to establish community design standards to make streets safe for all users including pedestrians, bicyclists and public transit users. The benefits of “complete streets” community design standards include increased transportation choices, economic revitalization, creation of vibrant and livable communities, improved safety, and increased opportunities for daily physical activity. We’ll assess the current condition and traffic on existing bike trails, walking paths, sidewalks and recreational facilities, especially in areas close to schools and town centers, and identify barriers that would prevent residents from walking and biking to school, work, transportation hubs, parks, shopping and other destinations, and then work to eliminate those barriers. Meanwhile, we’ll work to ensure that new development incorporates sidewalks and bike lanes.