Fort Worth Blue Zones Project asks for policy changes to promote health

08/21/2014 6:04 PM

08/21/2014 10:58 PM

A much-anticipated get-healthy program, the Fort Worth Blue Zones Project, is kicking off in the coming weeks with community gatherings and proposed policy changes for city officials to consider to further the program.

The City Council voted unanimously in January to support the privately funded program, and Julie Wilson, vice president of the Blue Zones Project, encouraged the council members Tuesday to continue implementing complete street designs and mixed-use developments and to start considering other policy changes that encourage healthy living.

“Here at City Hall we will be asking you to look at community policy in three different areas: our built environment, food and our tobacco,” Wilson said.

The project officially kicked off Thursday with a community meeting that included Mayor Betsy Price and other leaders.

The built environment could include installing traffic circles in neighborhoods and encouraging cycling and pedestrians by adding cycling trails and sidewalks.

Wilson said the city’s food policy changes could include protecting and promoting farmers’ markets to reduce food deserts, allowing vacant lots to be used for community gardens and establishing nutrition standards for government vending machines and other food served at government facilities.

The tobacco policies could address tobacco litter, electronic cigarettes, creating smoke-free zones and limiting smoking in outdoor dining, beverage and service areas.

“At some point can we foster dialogue and discussions on tobacco?” Wilson asked council members. “Do we want to look at having stricter areas where our children participate, things like Mayfest or Main Street? What about our tobacco litter?

Price said policy changes won’t make Fort Worth a “nanny state.”

“It is never going to be about a nanny state,” said Price. “This is about offering options and choices to people to make it easier to go back to moving organically, to think about what you eat. I’m not giving up my chocolate or steaks or a glass of wine. ... But there is just a lot going on with it.”

The goals of the project in Fort Worth include generating savings in medical expenses, lowering obesity and smoking rates, increasing vegetable consumption and increasing physical activity.

To do that, the Blue Zones team will target key areas in the community — schools, restaurants, employers, grocery stores and individuals — to encourage policy changes and enhance healthful options.

Wilson said some changes schools will be asked to implement include promoting walking to school buses, discontinuing sales of soft drinks, encouraging school gardens and not using physical activity as discipline.

Grocery stores are asked to include healthy options as impulse purchases, offer cooking demos with fruits and vegetables, pass out recipes for plant-based entrees and sides and use shelf talkers to highlight nutritious products. Restaurants are encouraged to serve smaller portions, stop putting salt on the table unless asked and asked not to offer free refills on sweetened beverages.

Residents should review “family policies” by keeping fruit on the kitchen counter, removing televisions from the kitchen, using smaller plants and establishing rules for family time. Employers are also encouraged to offer healthy options and nutritional coaching.

Upcoming Blue Zones Community Events

Date Time Location Address Zip code
Aug. 25 5:30 p.m. Northpark YMCA 9100 N. Beach St. 76244
Aug. 27 6:30 p.m. Northside Community Center 1100 NW 18th St. 76164
Sept. 3 5:30 p.m. Botanical Research Institute of Texas 1700 University Dr. 76109
Sept.4 6:30 p.m. Unity Church 5601 Trail Lake 76133
Sept. 9 6:30 p.m. Chisholm Trail Community Center 4680 McPherson Blvd. 76123
Sept. 12 Noon Gladney Center for Adoption 6300 John Ryan Dr. 76109
Sept. 15 6:30 p.m. Hazel Harvey Peace Center 818 Missouri Ave. 76104
Sept. 17 Noon TCC Corporate Training Center 13600 Heritage Pky 76177
Sept. 18 6 p.m. Martin Luther King Community Center 5565 Truman Dr. 76112
Sept. 19 5:30 p.m. TCU Kelly Alumni Center 2820 Stadium Dr. 76109
Sept. 22 6:30 p.m. Lake Country Church 8777 Boat Club Rd. 76179
Sept. 23 6 p.m. R.D. Evans Community Center 3200 Lackland Rd. 76116
Sept. 24 6:30 p.m. Riverside Community Center 3700 E. Belknap St. 76106
Sept. 25 10 a.m. Handley Meadowbrook Senior Center 6201 Beaty St. 76112
Sept. 25 6:30 p.m. Meadowbrook UMC 3900 Meadowbrook 76103
Sept. 27 2 p.m. Heritage HOA 9536 Courtright Dr. 76244

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