A Healthy Community for the Green Family

A Healthy Community for the Green Family



In this video, we will explore how the Green family makes decisions about food and physical activity. Carrie, her three children Terry, Broc, and Colly, and her mother, Grandma Green, are influenced by many aspects of the world they live in. Let’s start at the Green family home. Last week, Carrie attended the last class of a nutrition education series. After the series of classes, she had a better understanding of why it’s important to plan and cook healthy meals, and she had more tools for doing so. Carrie also got a lot of tips on how to shop for healthy foods on a limited budget. Now, what happens when the happy, healthy Green family leaves their home? Their ability to make healthy choices is impacted by everything around them — the people they interact with; the places they eat, work, learn, shop, and play; and the policies and norms that influence it all. How do these settings where the Green family members spend their time affect their health? Let’s take a look at a few examples and some questions they raise. Terry and Broc take a bus to school in the morning. Their school does its best to provide healthy meals through the National School Breakfast and Lunch programs, but a lot of students don’t eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. What if the school foodservice staff knew about techniques from the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement and used them in their cafeteria? And what if the school maintained a school garden and participated in a farm to school program to show kids where the food they are serving comes from? The Green family spends a lot of time outside of their home, interacting with settings such as schools, childcare facilities, community centers, and worksites. This means that in addition to providing direct education, these places must also make the healthy choice the easy choice for the Green family. Next, let’s look at an even bigger picture. How do sectors of society — including governments, organizations, businesses, and industries — help or hinder the Green family’s efforts to make healthy choices? These are aspects that may go unnoticed in the Green family's day-to-day lives, but they significantly influence their ability to make healthy choices. For instance, when Terry and Broc walk to their afterschool program, they have to walk on busy streets. Parts of their route don’t have sidewalks, and cars go rushing past, right next to them. Are pedestrian safety and neighborhood walkability priorities for the city planners? Or is the focus on making it easiest for drivers to get where they need to go? We just gave an example of a government policy that could promote physical activity by providing safe places to walk and bike. Government policies are often called “big P” policies. But what about “small p” policies — policies set by local institutions? For instance, what policies, guidelines, or rules (if any) could schools, childcare facilities, community centers, and worksites set to help make the healthy choice the easy choice for the Green family? Perhaps Broc’s school could adopt a policy to source 10 percent of its food from local farmers, or to replace using food as a reward with other kinds of rewards. You have just seen how the settings where the Green family spends their time, and the larger sectors that influence them, can impact their ability to make healthy choices. Now let’s look at how all of that can be influenced by people, both the people the Green family interact with on a day to day basis, and the social and cultural norms of a society. Sometimes Carrie asks a neighbor to babysit when she goes grocery shopping, and their neighbor gives them a snack. The neighbor usually buys chips and candy because they are more affordable and appetizing than bruised apples at a nearby convenience store. But the cost and quality of the apples isn’t the only reason the neighbor gives the kids chips and candy — social norms affect her thinking, too. She assumes that Broc and Colly prefer chips and candy to fruit. And she hasn’t taken nutrition education classes like Carrie, so she doesn’t know how to prepare healthy foods in a way that kids may prefer. The Greens generally feel comfortable and at ease with their neighbors, friends, and family. But sometimes it feels a little uncomfortable to be the only family looking for "healthy" foods. Soon, everything Carrie learned in the nutrition class and all the hard work she and her family put into eating healthy starts to fade away. It’s easier to fall in line with what others are doing and buy processed and ready-to-eat food. As you can see, there are many systems at play that influence the Green family’s ability to make healthy choices. These systems often act as barriers to healthy eating and active living. This means that you need to think about the policies, the systems, and the environments that influence the Greens — and all the people you work with. You also need to be intentional about changing policies, systems, and environments so the healthy choice truly is the easy choice for the people in your communities.

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