Organizing the Community for Healthier Lifestyles
It is with great pleasure that I, along with the YMCA and JCC of Greater Toledo, accept the honor of being a White House 'Let's Move! and Physical Activity Champion of Change.’ I am blessed to work for a great organization, alongside community leaders and partners who support the efforts for improved health and well being in our community.
I began my career with the YMCA in 2003, leading efforts for worksite wellness and childhood obesity. I have a passion for health and wellness and truly enjoy working with people to make changes for a better lifestyle. It is inspiring to help people identify small adjustments in their lives that can have a huge impact in accomplishing their larger goals.
Across the nation, and in greater Toledo, there is a crisis of chronic diseases including: heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes. The number of deaths attributed to these diseases is staggering and growing. Left unchecked, the current trend in health will leave our youngest generation with the prospect of having a shorter average life expectancy than its parents.
Community accessibility has a major impact on healthy choices and decisions. Many people in our community don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables or have safe places to play, walk or ride their bikes. As leaders in the community, we have a responsibility to take the resources we have and equip our neighbors with access to improved nutrition and physical activity.
In 2003, the YMCA developed the Kids in Motion program to engage children in physical activity and teach them about healthy eating, while in a fun environment. Since its inception, we have expanded the program into 27 YMCA child development centers.
In 2011, I began leading Live Well Greater Toledo, which is part of the Y-USA’s Statewide Pioneering Healthier Communities Initiative funded through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Live Well is a collaboration of community leaders who work together to improve the health and well-being of residents through policies, systems and environmental changes that support improved nutrition and physical activity.The group focuses on efforts to increase access to physical activity and play, fruits and vegetables, safer routes to school and healthier foods in afterschool settings.
The urgent challenge facing all of us is to find a healthier lifestyle, which demands a fundamentally new and aggressive social response. Individually, each of us must take responsibility and help our children, families and neighbors take responsibility for healthier living. Promoting policies and creating environments and systems that support healthy eating and improved physical activity patterns can have a profound impact. Stated by the Institute of Medicine, “It is unreasonable to expect that people will change their behavior easily when so many forces in the social, cultural, and physical environment conspire against such change.” That is where we as a nation need to work together to break through the barriers. We cannot do this alone and must work together.
Sarah Bucher is Director of Healthy Living at the YMCA and JCC of Greater Toledo.