Why it’s important
The numbers are staggering. According to the Minnesota Department of Health:
- 3 out of every 5 Minnesotans are overweight or obese—caused by insufficient physical activity and unhealthy eating—increasing risk for heart disease and diabetes, among other chronic illnesses.
- More than 1 in 7 Minnesotans still smoke, leading to various cancers and heart disease.
- Obesity and tobacco use and exposure are the two leading causes of death.
It is the ultimate goal of Winona County PartnerSHIP to help each of our communities create environments that are conducive to healthy lifestyles. Each of our seven initiatives, in combination with policy changes and system implementation, collaborate to help us in reaching our goal.
For more Winona County health data, view the 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment.
Sometimes there are certain aspects of a particular community or county that prevent individuals from engaging in health and wellness activities. Perhaps walking to work isn’t feasible because sticking to the main streets would take a very long time, or maybe the roads are too busy and traffic is too heavy to ride your bike. Policy changes at the county level can address issues like this.
The Complete Streets policy, for example, focuses on making Winona County streets safe and accessible for all users – whether you’re in a car or walking or biking. The policy encourages planners to account for potential active commuters when developing new roads or maintaining current ones.
When policies work together to create the desired result from start to finish – it’s called a system. Winona County PartnerSHIP strives to implement systems that promote health, wellness and active living in each of our communities. Let’s use our above example of the Complete Streets policy to illustrate what an active living system might look like in Winona County.
Assuming the Complete Streets policy change is successful, Winona County would begin to develop a connected web of pedestrian and bicycle-friendly roads and trails. Eventually, individuals looking for a healthier way to commute can use these avenues to get to work, school, shopping or leisure locations without ever having to use a vehicle. This collection of roads and trails makes up a convenient system for people who walk and bike.
Poor air quality is an environmental factor. Let’s assume that each city in Winona County has a bicycle and pedestrian system in place. On the surface, it would seem that Winona County is a healthy environment in which to live. But what happens if walkers and bikers have to pass by smoking shelters on the way to their destination? They are then exposed to secondhand smoke, making their commute a less pleasurable, and less healthy, experience. To solve the issue, a new round of policy changes (perhaps prohibiting smoking within a certain distance of bike routes) would need to be initiated.