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Laurel Council, Moe take aim at city health

A bill introduced by Laurel Mayor Craig Moe and the Laurel City Council is taking aim at improving the health of city residents, a move Moe said aligns with one of his goals for 2015.

The bill, introduced Monday, proposes establishing a nationwide program developed by the Institute for Public Health Innovation that strives to influence legislators and politicians to enact laws that improve public health in their communities.

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The initiative is called Healthy Eating Active Living Cities & Towns Campaign. According to the institute's website, the goal is to educate leaders on health issues and help them identify existing and new policies that can improve public health.

As part of the program, the community establishes a HEAL resolution, which is intended to serve as a road map for the steps that need to be taken.

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The bill introduced Jan. 12 is Laurel's HEAL resolution, which Moe said was crafted with the help of the Maryland Municipal League.

The resolution could be passed by the council later this month.

Moe said the program is an extension of an existing program for city employees, which encourages physical activity during the work day. The program includes an extended lunch hour to make time for physical fitness and a point system in which employees can earn extra time off if they are exercising regularly.

"We do a lot of things already. ... But I want to try and eventually see how we can reach out to the community and do some things," Moe said. "Whether it is a community walk or community get-together to talk about health issues and bring in different people."

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One specific health issue facing the city and state is obesity.

"The City of Laurel hereby recognizes that obesity is a serious public health threat to the health and well-being of adults, children and families in Laurel, Maryland and a commitment is needed to put healthy choices within reach of all residents," the resolution states.

The resolution proposes a series of measures, including increasing bike-ability and walk-ability, and supporting more transit-oriented development.

In support of those moves, it proposes reducing vehicle speeds on roadways, adding bike lanes and pedestrian thoroughfares and adding more crosswalks.

The resolution also calls for the city's economic development office to attract and promote more healthy food retailers, which includes increased promotion of Laurel's Farmers' Market.

Moe said two keys to creating a healthier community are partnerships and public outreach.

"It takes time, it takes money and it takes people to be involved to make it work," he said. "There are a lot of people out there doing a lot of different things; I'd like to find a group interested in (partnering with the city)."

He said the city needs to take an active role in connecting residents who have common interests that promote healthy living.

"You may be a runner, or a bike rider, and you want to do it but not by yourself," he said. "It would be nice to have a group that meets every Saturday morning. ... it's things like that, trying to engage the community."

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