State Health Program Has Roots in Las Cruces
It is a story that, in many ways, is seven years in the making.
In 2008, local staff of the New Mexico Department of Health set up a meeting with various community partners, agencies and members with the intention of reducing childhood obesity with the understanding that all systems need to change in order to make the healthy choice the easy choice. It’s not enough to simply educate people about making healthy choices—the environment sometimes has to be changed too.
The result was the creation of Healthy Kids Las Cruces, made up of local people from the world of healthcare, families and communities, education, local government, and the food system.
Through its partners, Healthy Kids Las Cruces has had a lot successes. For the last seven years now, Las Cruces has been named a Playful City by the Kaboom! Foundation, often being the only New Mexico city to earn that distinction. The City of Las Cruces Parks and Recreation Department has more than 140 public properties. That includes parks, trails, open space, community gardens and more.
“Having access to outdoor activities and park land is essential to the quality of life for residents of every city,” says City of Las Cruces Parks and Recreation Director Mark Johnston. “Building attractive parks and infrastructure close to housing encourages folks to get out and use the outdoor space.”
Today, there are more than 26 miles of walking and biking paths in city limits, and if you use or live near a walk or bike trail in Las Cruces, you see the use it’s getting every day.
One group that’s helping with making additional infrastructure improvements around school sites is through the Las Cruces Safe Routes to School, a Healthy Kids Las Cruces Partner within Las Cruces Public Schools LCPS. The group for years now has worked tirelessly to educate all 3rd graders in the district about the benefits of walking and bicycling.
Starting Thursday, October 1st and continuing through Wednesday, October 7th, Las Cruces Safe Routes to School is coordinating walk to school programs around the school district to mark the upcoming International Walk to School Day. For the first time ever, all 25 LCPS elementary schools will be participating.
“We have grown the program carefully, steadily and safely, always with the intention of sustainability in mind,” said Safe Routes to School Coordinator Ashleigh Curry. “I believe this has been the key to our success.”
Currently 21 of the 25 LCPS elementary schools host weekly bike-or-ride-to-school events, where both parents and kids alike find they enjoy the simple pleasure and easiness of getting to school using their own two feet for a change. There’s even an added bonus:
“I also notice that the program offers a great community builder within the parents,” said Curry. “When they walk together, they meet parents they otherwise might not have the opportunity to chat with. I think this overflows into volunteering at school events, Parent/Teacher Organizations (PTO), etc.”
Another partner is Las Cruces Mayor Miyagishma who started his 5-2-1-0 program with 3rd graders also in 2008 as a partner with Healthy Kids Las Cruces. The program encourages children to eat five servings of fruit and vegetables, spend no more than two hours watching TV, get an hour of exercise a day, and not to drink sodas.
Healthy Kids Las Cruces has proven so successful that the New Mexico Department of Health adopted the initiative statewide, and in the years since, the Healthy Kids New Mexico program has been credited with being instrumental in reducing statewide childhood obesity rates. Earlier this year, the department announced that since 2010, there has been a 20 percent decrease in childhood obesity among New Mexico third graders.
That terrific result has lead the program to being expanded this year, from nine counties around the state to eighteen, and it all started because of the efforts of a handful of community partners right here in Las Cruces.
We would be happy to provide additional information about this press release. Simply contact David Morgan at 575-528-5197 (Office) or 575-649-0754 (Mobile) with your questions.
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