Mt. Lebanon, school district join Live Well Allegheny initiative
During a presentation full of applause, Dr. Karen Hacker probably drew the loudest round with this pronouncement:
“Let’s get smoking gone,” she said. “Let’s get rid of it. We know all of the negative outcomes of smoking, right?”
The director of the Allegheny County Health Department was among those attending Saturday’s opening of the Mt. Lebanon Uptown Farmers’ Market for a ceremony welcoming two local entities into the Live Well Allegheny initiative.
“With Mt. Lebanon and Mt. Lebanon School District, it’s actually our 23rd community and only the second combined municipal-and-school-district partnership,” William McKain, Allegheny County manager and a Mt. Lebanon resident, said. “So you should be really proud of what you do here.”
The county launched Live Well Allegheny in January 2014 as a comprehensive, innovative strategy on wellness to embrace such attributes as physical health, mental wellness, personal and community safety, prevention, and preparedness.
Hacker, whose department is leading the initiative, said it focuses on a trio of major areas for improvement among area residents: smoking cessation, physical activity and eating habits.
“These are the three factors that contribute most to the four major preventable chronic diseases, and here in Allegheny County that’s more than 80 percent of the reasons for mortality,” Hacker explained. “If we can really impact those three things, we have a much better chance of increasing our longevity, of decreasing our health care costs and overall just making everybody healthier in general.”
Participants in Live Well Allegheny demonstrate commitments to such improvements.
“It really does mean that the municipality has done some really important things to think about their citizenry, and that includes green space or walking trails and all of the kinds of things that Mt. Lebanon is doing,” Hacker said. “And the same goes for the school district.”
Among the steps taken by Mt. Lebanon School District are providing a comprehensive wellness plan for staff members, offering a standards-based health and physical education curriculum and eliminating non-recyclable materials at all of its schools.
Along with Superintendent Timothy Steinhauer attending Saturday’s event, a group of elementary students participated in a “How Do You Live Well” game, showing what they’ve learned about good health by answering questions, providing correct answers even when some of the adult onlookers seemed to be stumped.
Also speaking at the ceremony was Kelly Fraasch, Mt. Lebanon Commission president, who mentioned the local emphasis on pedestrian activity.
“When it comes to health and wellness, being a walking community with a top regional hospital as its largest employer gives us a head start,” she said. “But nearly every municipal department, the school district and various nonprofits agencies located in Mt. Lebanon have contributed to our focus on improving quality of life for all.”