By Tommy Noyes
Kaua‘i is enjoying a reputation around the state for our dedication to improving everybody’s fitness and wellness.
One organization that has been instrumental in coordinating this fundamental shift in our community is Get Fit Kaua‘i. The changes taking place here are so inspiring that our island-wide efforts have attracted the attention of national health officials.
In February, Get Fit Kaua‘i director Bev Brody was invited to Washington D.C., where she was honored with the 2015 National Physical Activity Plan Champion Award in the Transportation and Community Design Sector.
County of Kaua‘i elected officials used the occasion of this national award to express their own appreciation for Get Fit Kaua‘i’s efforts by issuing a mayoral proclamation and holding a special session of the County Council dedicated to the organization.
Brody attributes all this recognition to the many dedicated individuals who have been collaborating for years to advance public health on Kaua‘i, and to the compelling nomination submitted to the National Physical Activity Plan Congress by Lehua Choy, MPH. Choy worked on the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa’s Healthy Hawai‘i Initiative Evaluation Team. She documented Get Fit Kaua‘i’s performance in Influencing the Built Environment to Promote Physical Activity. Choy used the findings in that report as the core material to nominate Get Fit Kaua‘i for recognition.
The National Physical Activity Plan’s vision is that, one day, all Americans will be physically active and will live, work and play in environments that facilitate regular physical activity. This year, more than two thousand nominations were sent in, yet only three organizations in the entire nation were actually honored with awards — Get Fit Kaua‘i was one. Following are some of Get Fit Kaua‘i’s achievements that earned this recognition.
In 2009, Get Fit Kaua‘i convened Safe Routes to School and Built Environment task forces to instigate policy, systems and environmental changes conducive to increased physical activity for all.
Policy changes championed by the Get Fit Kaua‘i coalition led to the county adopting a Complete Streets policy, the state passing a law that funds Safe Routes to School programs through increased fines for speeding in school zones, and changes to the subdivision code that establishes shorter block lengths and requires sidewalks.
The coalition worked closely with government agencies and policy makers to ensure accountability and that these policies are being implemented in a timely manner.
The coalition collaborated with the Department of Public Works to develop infrastructure improvement plans for schools participating in the Safe Routes to School program, several of which have already been implemented.
Other notable Get Fit Kaua‘i endeavors include organizing Worksite Wellness programs for 25 businesses on Kaua‘i, organizing lunchtime walks in Lihu‘e, and the annual Mayor-a-Thon that celebrates Ke Ala Hele Makalae — a built environment that supports active living!
- Tommy Noyes works for the Hawai‘i State Department of Health’s Public Health Preparedness branch, serves on Kaua‘i Path’s board of directors, and is a League of American Bicyclists certified instructor.