In public health, we know that where you live has a profound effect on your health. But we do not always know what to do about it. Public health doesn’t have the tools to renovate housing, reconfigure streets to make them walkable and bikeable, build parks and community buildings, or build and run grocery stores or schools.
Fortunately, there is a sector that does – community development. Collaboration between community development and health promises to be a win-win for everyone. Community developers have the know-how to transform neighborhoods, improving what those in public health call the social determinants of health. Meanwhile, innovative community developers have recognized the importance of health ensuring that residents benefit fully from the changes. The integration of health into community development, and the partnerships that are essential to making this happen, are critical. For example, the surgeon general recently delivered a call to action on walkable communities and America Walks issued micro-grants, where over 500 community-based organizations applied for funding.
Many of our cities are taking a keen interest in community health not only with the built environment but programs that connect families and businesses to further engage them within their community. As cities become walkable and host events they become sought after destinations for families and businesses. There are many projects occurring in Georgia that include new trails, parks and bicycle lanes all designed to engage the community in healthy leisure time options.
Active Georgia is an innovative approach to highlighting all this amazing work and inspire community health. After all, walkable communities are attractive places for businesses to locate, which clearly correlate with healthy and thriving economies.
In the first two years of Active Georgia, Roswell and Dallas were neck and neck for the title of the most active city. This year we have a new winner – Sugar Hill.
Sugar Hill is a very active community located in Northern Gwinnett County minutes away from Lake Lanier and was named after an incident where a large shipment of sugar spilled and the area became known as “the hill where the sugar spilled” or “the sugar hill”. Sugar Hill is host to a lot of 5ks and they are currently building a new fitness center for City employees and their families. The city hosts a number of community fitness camps where there is a good chance the Mayor, members of city council or the downtown development authority will be seen participating. Their Economic Development Director Scott Andrews, who is a fitness trainer and this year’s individual winner, has a number of weight loss success stories within the community. Nic Greene served as the President of the Sugar Hill Business Alliance this past year and Ned Jasarevic, shown in the picture with his two dogs, is the Information Technology Specialist for the city. “The success of these gentlemen is the real story. Ned has lost nearly 100 lbs since starting his lifestyle change. Nic is down over 25lbs in just a few short months. I am proud of their accomplishments and the obstacles they have overcome. The Fitness Boot Camps and their success have led them to becoming my gym workout partners, as well great friends,” Andrews stated.
Paul Radford, the City Manager shared more highlights about the city, stating “The credit for our success lies in the unselfish and creative leadership of our city council and their passion for the Sugar Hill brand, their laser focus on our vision and their clear and unambiguous commitment to engagement and partnerships. Our focus is creating a walkable downtown with connecting neighborhoods. We are also planning a unique trail that will connect our downtown (a new urban park) with our recreation parks, greenspace and golf course, creating a 16-mile multi-use trail around the city called the “Sugar Loop Greenway.” Our downtown amphitheater, the Bowl at Sugar Hill, was recently named “Best in Gwinnett” as an outdoor concert venue by Gwinnett Magazine. We also have close to $250 million in new construction soon to start in our downtown including the city’s new EpiCenter that will be the home to a new performing arts theater, city recreation center as well as 43,000 sf of office, retail, and restaurant space. Other private sector developments will also include commercial space, structured parking and most importantly, downtown housing. We are excited about the future of Sugar Hill and feel blessed to have so many different private sector partners helping make our city a special place for residents, businesses and guests alike.”
Roswell is certainly one of the more active cities in the state as they are known as a cycling community home to the ever popular GA 400 “Bike Ride to the Capitol” where they close down a portion of GA 400. As a cyclist, I had the honor of riding in this event and it was way too cool riding down a multi-lane highway considering the amount of drivers that road normally accommodates on any given day. The City of Roswell recently started a Health and Wellness program for City employees where they offer free classes and bring in nutritionists and fitness instructors whom are also part-time City employees. They have a strong Health and Wellness program for their seniors and the general public as well. The city has a number of innovative public schools within their district and a very athletic group of gymnasts who successfully compete in nationals every year.
As we have seen from the success of these two cities, parks provide intrinsic environmental, aesthetic, and recreation benefits. They are also a source of positive economic benefits. They enhance property values, increase municipal revenue, bring in homebuyers and workers, and attract retirees.
At the bottom line, parks are a good financial investment for any community:
- Parks channel positive community participation by getting diverse people to work together toward a shared vision.
- Parks provide places for people to connect and interact in a shared environment.
- Parks are one of the quickest and most effective ways to build a sense of community and improve quality of life.
Congratulations to Sugar Hill and Roswell for their innovative approaches to engaging their City employees and by getting involved with Active Georgia. These are important steps in engaging their respective communities and we look forward to continuing to inspire and grow more community engagement.
Please join me in support of this initiative as we take a unique approach by combining the built environment and health programs with technology to inspire community health. For more information on how your city can become involved in Active Georgia please contact Dan Popovic at firstname.lastname@example.org