Thurston County has been selected as one of 50 members of the HealthyCommunity50 in the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge to receive a $10,000 community seed award. By participating in the Challenge, Thurston County is in the running to receive a prize up to $500,000 that will support local efforts.
The Challenge, a partnership between the Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association and the National Association of Counties, launched in April during National Public Health Week. The Challenge will award $1.5 million in prizes to small and mid-sized cities, counties, and federally-recognized tribes able to show measurable change over time working with cross-sector partnerships to implement health innovations and data-driven solutions. Hundreds of local governments, health departments, educational institutions, and other public/private entities applied to be a part of the Challenge.
The HealthyCommunity50 were chosen based on plans to improve the health of their communities in at least one of five domains: healthy behaviors, community safety, built environment, social/economic factors, and environmental exposures.
Through the Challenge, Thurston County and partners will implement the Active Design for a Healthier Community project, part of the Community Design action strategy of Thurston Thrives. The project comes at a critical time for Thurston County, when about one in three adults and the majority of youth are not getting enough physical activity.
Karen Messmer, of Olympia Safe Streets, an advocacy group involved in the project and the Thurston Thrives Community Design Action Team, said, "The trails around Thurston County are a tremendous asset - they are part of the support system for healthy living. Our community can increase safety and activity on our streets and trails through improved design. As we put this project into action, we'll be looking for ways to make shorter paths for people and where to put informative signs. The HealthyCommunity50 status moves us toward the longer term vision for our community, where people are active in their daily lives because there are abundant opportunities for walking or using other active transportation."
"At the Aetna Foundation, we're seeking to reward innovation for communities implementing new ways to improve health outcomes," said Dr. Garth Graham, president of the Aetna Foundation. "We want the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge to serve as a catalyst for collaboration in local communities around the country working to move the needle in combating health disparities."
"Thurston County's trails connect people to great destinations while supporting them in being more active, whether for transportation or recreation," said Thurston County Commissioner Bud Blake, Chair of the Board of Health and a member of the Thurston Thrives Coordinating Council. "We want to build on that by improving access, particularly from where people live and work, so that they can enjoy these places to be active, use really efficient forms of transportation and experience the outdoors, safely and on a regular basis."
All selected HealthyCommunity50 members will be visited by an expert judge panel to answer questions, understand the community's approach to the project first-hand, and speak with the members of the cross-sector team and key stakeholders. At the conclusion of the Challenge, the programs most able to show measurable change will be eligible for prize awards from $25,000 - $500,000. Participants will be judged on their own progress and will not be competing against each other. For more information, visit www.healthiestcities.org