A Community Approach to Health
Change takes time, but Ott says the city is slowly but surely making environmental changes and systems changes that give people access to healthier foods and physical activity without having to really change their daily routines very much.
"We have a lot of people from a lot of different agencies and just plain old residents of Manistique who are excited about this work. They would take the ideas we stressed and bring them back to their agencies—the hospital, the senior center—and that helped the ideas spread so much faster through the community.”
In 2009, soon after Ott arrived, the city brought in the legendary walkability expert, Dan Burden, who took leaders and residents on a “walking audit” in Manistique and pointed out barriers such as sidewalks that stop in the grass and pose a problem for everyone—someone in a wheelchair, or an able bodied person trying to walk that street when it’s muddy or full of snow.
Ott says the city started from the walking audit and “jumped from there” to implementing a safe routes to school project with the Manistique area schools, and says “that started more people talking.” Next on the list was a non-motorized transportation plan with an engineering firm and a focus group in Manistique. Ott says, “we made sure we had all levels of users as part of that focus group to tell us what’s wrong with the non-motorized transportation access in Manistique and what their greatest dreams are.” The city council adopted the non-motorized transportation plan last year.
A Plan for Healthier Schools
The CDC grant also included a provision for working in the local schools. Missing a coordinated school health team, the community put one together and for the last three years they have been working on the same goals as they have for the greater community—easier access to physical activity and healthier foods. “We’ve worked on improving the school breakfast and getting more kids to school for breakfast and we’re making some changes in the school lunch program as well as buying local produce for school meals.”
Chris Marana, Physical Education Teacher at Emerald Elementary School, says the changes have empowered the kids. “We want them excited because we want them to be able to take that home and share that excitement with their parents and their families and then be able to sustain their enthusiasm and that level of activity, as they get older,” said Marana.
Better Health for Better Business
Critical to Manistique’s current redevelopment has been the partnerships among all the sectors of the community. It’s clear that sidewalks are really good for the health of the community. But what cemented the deal to get them built for many area partners, says Sheila Aldrich, Manistique City Manager, is that it was also good for the economic health of the community. “Great looking sidewalks and beautiful streets entice businesses and families to move here.”