On Saturday, November 8th, in front of Linwood Elementary School, the AHA and fellow community organizations and advocates from across the Metro region were joined by Milwaukie Mayor Jeremy Ferguson, public health leaders, and parents and announced a new effort to improve the health and safety for kids in the tri-county area: For Every Kid.
For Every Kid is a growing coalition of the following organizations: Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon; Safe Routes to School National Partnership; American Heart Association; OregonWalks; Upstream Public Health, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon; Coalition for a Livable Future; and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. Our new coalition, For Every Kid, called on Metro Council to dedicate funding for Safe Routes to Schools projects for every school district in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties.
Metro-area kids who most need opportunities for physical activity don’t have the necessary safe infrastructure—sidewalks, crosswalks, and bike lanes—in their communities and around their schools to support a healthy childhood.
In the tri-county region, 70% of 8th graders reported not getting the daily recommended amount of exercise they need to be healthy, according to the 2013 Oregon Healthy Teens Survey. Lack of physical activity is a leading factor for obesity, diabetes and heart disease—a problem for Oregon, where 1 in 4 kids is overweight or obese.
Dr. Minot Cleveland, Advocacy Chair for the American Heart Association in Oregon spoke during the event. “No single change will reverse the obesity epidemic, but we do know one critical component of the solution: Increased physical activity and education. The evidence is clear: physical activity is preventive medicine at its best—and safe routes to schools can help.”
An effective Safe Routes to School project would include a needs assessment for schools, infrastructure improvements within a one-mile radius around the school, and education and encouragement programs for bicycle and pedestrian safety. We’re are also asking for expanded support of Youth Pass for high school students, so teenagers can benefit from the physical activity associated with public transit use to and from school.
Linwood Elementary is just one of the schools where the demand for additional safety and physical activity is high. The Parent Teacher Association recently completed a needs assessment that highlighted dangers around the school, like the lack of sidewalks and unsafe crossings.