Weekly Feature

2017-10-12 / Editorial

Healthy District Initiative aims to improve health of county

State Assembly

While Western New York has been enjoying some beautiful weather late into the fall season, our colder days are just around the corner. The nicer weather provides more opportunity to be out and active, which as we know is beneficial to our health. But with winter on the way, it’s still just as important to continue working on healthy habits. This brings me to an initiative my office has been working on to improve the health of constituents in the 142nd Assembly District.

Did you know that in 2015, Erie County ranked 54th out of 62 counties in New York for health and wellness, according to a report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In 2016 that number got even worse, dropping to 57th of 62.

I was shocked by this number and wanted to figure out a strategy to turn those results around.

This led to partnering with the Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo and Western New York, and Executive Director Phil Haberstro.

Through conversations with Phil, we decided that the best place to start with improving the health and wellness of our communities was to start with our kids. We asked all four public school districts in the 142nd assembly district — Buffalo, Lackawanna, Orchard Park and West Seneca — if they would be interested in launching an initiative to improve health and wellness and, eagerly, each district came on board. This started the Healthy District Initiative.

HDI follows this motto, “On your Mark, Get set, Go! — A Race We Can Win Together.” The HDI seeks to improve the health of the 142nd District through recruitment and community participation and empowering citizens to become healthier with the resources available in our area. One of the more unique aspects of HDI is that it brings together the superintendents from four distinct school districts to collaborate on one common goal, improving health and wellness.

Already, we are starting to see the impact of the initiative.

Lackawanna schools launched a fall Healthy District Initiative Walk, where each grade at Martin Road Elementary, joined by police officers and firefighters, walked three laps around the school grounds, and enjoyed a healthy snack.

Orchard Park hosted the Healthy Fun Walk, bringing in donations of water and fruit for participants from two local businesses, Runners Roost and Orchard Fresh.

The city of Buffalo School District has opened its 53rd mental health clinic, making a clinic accessible to students at every Buffalo school.

And in West Seneca, school leaders have started a running club and are working on healthy pledges for the students.

In the fast paced environment we live in, it is far too easy to put health and wellness on the back burner. I applaud the superintendents from West Seneca, Orchard Park, Lackawanna, and Buffalo for stepping up to the plate and making this a priority.

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