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Leaders Ask: How Can Neighborhoods be Healthier Places to Live, Work and Exercise?
Greater Kansas City LISC presented a symposium today entitled Building Safe, Healthy Urban Communities One Neighborhood at a Time, at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center, 4801 Rockhill Rd., Kansas City, Mo. The keynote speaker Leslie Mikkelsen, Managing Director at the Prevention Institute, provided an overview of the built environment and how it, as well as unsafe and violent conditions, influence the health of urban residents. The Prevention Institute is a nonprofit organization that takes a comprehensive, integrated approach to solving complex health and social issues through prevention strategies. Mikkelsen’s interactive presentation was followed by Keri Blackwell from Chicago LISC who discussed "The Chicago Experience: Building Community through Sports.”
Nearly 100 urban bi-state community leaders attended the symposium, which waspossible thanks to a grant from the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City. The audience of health-related organizations, crime and safety groups, neighborhood leaders and community development professionals identified strategies and potential policy recommendations to help improve the built environment in urban neighborhoods. Participants discussed both the challenges and opportunities Kansas City urban neighborhood environments present, and how intentional changes can reduce violent activity and improve resident engagement. The group also explored the role of state and local public policy in making changes; and national and local success stories were highlighted.
“Fostering livable and healthy environments in urban neighborhoods is a major goal of Greater Kansas City LISC and our flagship program called NeighborhoodsNOW,” said Julie Porter, Greater Kansas City LISC Executive Director. “At LISC, one of our roles is to act as a convener and a resource to neighborhood residents and community leaders. By bringing in experts such as the Prevention Institute to educate and help identify workable solutions, we hope to help improve the quality of life in Kansas City urban neighborhoods.”
The symposium is one outcome of a grant to LISC by the Health Care Foundation to establish a multi-sector NeighborhoodsNOW Health Advocacy Initiative which will advocate for legislation and public investments supporting healthy urban neighborhoods. LISC is building partnerships among community groups, health professionals, law enforcement, residents, and others in order to create an environment for residents conducive to their health, enjoyment and overall sense of well-being.
The educational symposium was well-timed with national and local concerns over the health of communities. In fact, a national report was released in early July by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation called “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2011.” As local media reported, 12 states have an obesity rate of over 30% including Missouri, which ranked 11th. Kansas was ranked 16th with an obesity rate of 29%.
“When residents feel safe and engaged in their neighborhoods, they are more likely to go outside and enjoy their communities. Greater Kansas City LISC believes that any discussion about improving urban areas must include strategies to change the built environment, including ways to reduce violent activity, improve infrastructure and green space, and increase access to healthy foods so that neighborhoods are more conducive to healthy and active living,” said Porter.
Copyright © LISC 2013