Walking The Talk

A Blueprint for Good Health

Anne Warhover framed

 Anne Warhover, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Foundation.

The well-known proverb "It takes a village to raise a child" takes on a literal meaning when it comes to health.

A healthy "village" not only consists of people (including doctors, nurses and other health professionals) but places and things that allow "villagers" to exercise and obtain the essentials for a healthy diet – essentials many people take for granted.

The environments where we live and work play a significant role in our health and well-being. Those in communities where there is easy access to parks and recreation and safe pathways that allow people to ride their bikes or walk will fare better healthwise than those who don't. I know this from personal experience. When I worked downtown, I walked to most meetings, to the bus, parking lot and restaurants. But when I moved to the Colorado Health Foundation's office in Glendale in 2004, I immediately gained five pounds because I had to drive almost everywhere.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites community infrastructure as one of the best ways to address the nation's obesity epidemic. For example, communities could fight obesity by placing schools within easy walking distance from residential areas or attracting grocers and farmers markets where people have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Turning the vision of healthy communities into reality is much easier said than done – especially as governments at all levels weigh budget cuts to deal with the struggling economy. But the communities with the foresight to make health a priority in their planning and zoning will see their investments reap returns in the future as residents stay healthier.

This edition of Health Elevations looks at how communities and nonprofits in Colorado and elsewhere are exploring the idea of the "built environment" to improve health and quality of life for Coloradans.

As a sampling, we profile the effort to build safe walkways in Bent County – an area with a high rate of obesity (particularly among children). We explore The Trust for Public Land's plan to convert an abandoned field in east Denver into a park and community garden for 1,000 low-income residents. We also examine how community activists turned Commerce City's once-dilapidated neighborhood of Derby back into a thriving and livable community.

In this issue's "Expert View" feature, Angela Glover Blackwell, founder and CEO of the Oakland, Calif.-based advocacy group PolicyLink, talks about the role that built environment plays on people's health. Wendy Peters Moschetti, principal of Boulder-based WPM Consulting, shares her observations about built environment on a more local level.

At the Colorado Health Foundation, we encourage the concept of the built environment. Through the work of the organizations highlighted in this edition and others that know it takes a village to foster good health, we are seeing that concept take shape as an exciting new reality.


Anne Warhover Signature

Anne Warhover, President and CEO
The Colorado Health Foundation