February 11 2013

Incorporating Active Living into City Planning in the Twin Cities: Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota

Pedestrian TrailWith the continuing onset and prevalence in obesity and diagnosed diabetes among adults, as well as children in the United States, active living is becoming an integral factor for all levels of urban planning – city, county, and statewide. What once used to be a mundane occurrence, physical activity has become completely disassociated from our daily routines. Most activities are completed via personal automobile, even including driving to the local fitness center.

In order to combat this growing epidemic on a local level, Active Living Hennepin County (ALHC) of Minnesota was formed in 2006 with the help of funding by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. Since 2009, BCBS has been supported with supplementary grants from the Minnesota Department of Health’s Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP). There are numerous ways to incorporate a healthier way of living into daily routines; however, this approach takes into account community and transit initiatives. According to ALHC, “Active living is a way of life that integrates physical activity into daily routines from walking to the library to bicycling to work.”

The work of ALHC can be reflected through the mission to “increase opportunities for physical activity by reducing barriers to health in our built, natural and social environment” via the following Guiding Principles:

  • Guiding Principle 1: Daily physical activity improves health and can reduce levels of obesity or chronic diseases, such as type 2 Diabetes or heart disease;
  • Guiding Principle 2: Built environments with accessible destinations, integrated transportation networks, and inviting design promote physically active and safe options;
  • Guiding Principle 3: Programs and policies inclusive of all cultures and abilities can help reduce health disparities;
  • Guiding Principle 4: Public participation and awareness of the benefits and opportunities related to active living are increased through effective communication strategies.

In addition, ALHC also recognizes the changing demographic landscape in terms of growing diversity and culture, which resulted in the establishment of the Multicultural Subcommittee in 2008. This committee further looks to identify and remove barriers to better include and represents the needs of all constituents.

With the continuing rise in concerns over health and physical activity, what are some approaches your community is implementing in order to encourage active and sustainable living through community and/or transportation initiatives? Are there important stakeholders who should be included in the conversation when it comes to implementing active living strategies and policies?

Credits: Image by Jasna Hadzic. Data linked to sources.

Jasna Hadzic

Born and raised in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but having spent most of her adult life in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.A.; Jasna Hadzic has been greatly influenced by both cultures, most specifically in terms of architecture, planning, and design. The transition of living in a small European pedestrian-oriented city to a large and vehicle-oriented American city greatly influenced her interest in the field of planning. She came to appreciate the vibrant, culturally diverse and faster-pace of life, while also looking toward her native city as a paradigm of sustainable living with traditional architecture, multi-modal transportation systems, and pedestrian-friendly spaces and streets. A recent Master’s graduate in Community and Regional Planning and G.I.S from Iowa State University, Jasna’s Thesis focused on the analysis of the built environment and demographic factors that influence physical activity, while examining street connectivity and infrastructure. In addition, Jasna holds a B.E.D. in Environmental Design, with a minor in Urban Studies, from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. Her most recent work experience as a Planning Research Assistant at the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, as well as volunteer work with the Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity has exposed her to new city projects, as well as community engagement. Her career goal is to not only work directly on sustainable urban design projects, but to also ensure equitable and sustainable planning practices.

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This entry was posted on Monday, February 11th, 2013 at 9:37 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Social/Demographics, Transportation. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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2 Responses to “Incorporating Active Living into City Planning in the Twin Cities: Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota”

  1. Adjoa Says:

    Great article. And I love your question of who are the stakeholders that could be involved in this discussion of active living in the urban environment.

    Because I work in the realm of small business start-ups and development, what came to mind was getting local businesses involved in introducing health and wellness to their patrons.

    Be it through a mom and pop shop that sponsors neighborhood kickball teams, or a small design firm that partners with a nearby bicycle shop to offer a discount to clients, the local economic base of our urban communities, through collaboration, may just be the ones to help develop a new frontier in active living.

  2. Jasna Hadzic Says:

    Adjoa, thank you for the insightful comment. You are absolutely right – establishing partnerships with small locally-owned businesses is crucial in building and retaining that momentum of active and healthy living while at the same time establishing a strong economic basis.

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