Impacting Health Through Policy Changes
The Center plays an active role through several local health coalitions and alliances to advance key policy and legislative initiatives, showing that primary prevention can work by using advocacy and policy change to improve health.
The Healthi Kids initiative, led by the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency and supported by the Center for Community Health, Department of Pediatrics, and the Children’s Agenda, is a community-based coalition advocating for five policy and practice changes: better school food; safer, more accessible play areas; healthier food standards in early child care settings; increased in-school physical activity; and policies that support breastfeeding.
A campaign spearheaded by Healthi Kids was launched to “rescue recess” after learning that many Rochester City School District students didn’t have recess as part of their day. Because recess is critical to the health and wellness of children, volunteers took action – speaking out at school board meetings, sending letters to members, and signing petitions. As a result, a recess mandate was added to the district’s Wellness Policy.
Healthi Kids is working to ensure community spaces are safe and welcoming to children. They continue to develop Playability Plans for various city neighborhoods. Healthi Kids is collaborating with residents to prioritize the needs identified in each plan and take action to address those issues.
Rochester “Complete Streets” legislation also was passed in 2011. In an effort to continue active transportation advocacy, Healthi Kids and Healthy Rochester led a campaign for the passage of a Complete Streets policy, which encourages active transportation for children, as well as adults. Complete Streets policies spell out the need to cater to pedestrians and cyclists – not only cars – when public funds are spent on building or repairing streets. This can include better bike lanes, sidewalks cross walks, speed humps, timing of lights, etc. Healthi Kids held a Complete Streets training and encouraged community residents who attended the training to speak on behalf of the policy at the Rochester City Council meeting. The policy passed unanimously by Council.
The University is playing a critical role in leading the greater Rochester community to embrace bicycling and walking as economical, safe and healthy modes of transportation for adults and children.
In 2011, the Center for Community Health teamed up with the Rochester Cycling Alliance to host the Active Transportation Symposium, to better understand obstacles that keep UR faculty, staff and students from biking and walking to and from the University – as well as to consider what improvements might make “active transportation” like biking and walking more attractive than driving a car to campus. A group composed of state, county, city and university representatives continues to move the project forward in 2012.