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Pulling together for healthier life choices

Where people live, work and play has a direct impact on their health.

That’s why a new statewide campaign is under way to encourage healthier lifestyle choices at all three of those settings.

The Center for Prevention at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota wants community groups, members, businesses and others to join the campaign, “Pulling Together Minnesota.”

A new poll from Blue Cross found that the majority of Minnesotans say they encounter significant barriers to a healthy lifestyle, such as not being able to walk to work or school (58 percent), having limited sidewalks (57 percent), and difficulty getting to stores with affordable fruit and vegetables (55 percent).

Pulling Together Minnesota hopes to shrink those percentages down.

The campaign also celebrates initiatives that are already making a difference in providing healthier opportunities.

This includes Active Living Douglas County, which has been making the county healthier, step by step, since 2008.

“I think these kinds of healthy initiatives are really important, especially in rural communities that lack the resources big cities have,” said Jessica Peterson, public health educator and coordinator of Active Living Douglas County.

One problem it tackled: Residents wanted to have more opportunities to safely walk and bike in the county.

Unfortunately, due to existing policies and infrastructure, there were significant gaps and barriers for residents to do so, Peterson said.

While quality trails in and around Alexandria existed, connections to those trails were lacking, she said.

Also, some areas of the community lack sidewalks, and a long stretch of roadway in downtown Alexandria – Broadway – is dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists to use and cross.

Active Living Douglas County members conducted assessments and reviews to determine how to increase active living among the county’s community members.

They implemented a multifaceted approach that increased the safety, awareness and opportunity to incorporate non-motorized forms of transportation, like walking and biking, into the daily lives of community members.

Active Living:

Developed and promoted path signage and community walking and biking maps to inform residents and visitors about the Central Lakes Trail and other opportunities for physical activity.

Employed Complete Streets principles in planning of a demonstration project in Alexandria that resulted in a $4 million road project on Broadway in Alexandria, which will be built this summer. The same pedestrian and bike friendly improvements were made around Lincoln Elementary School. Also, to make it easier for children to drive their bikes to Discovery Middle School, the shoulders along Geneva Road were widened.

Developed a list of organizations and individuals within the community who support active living principles and engaged them in local initiatives designed to increase active living opportunities.

Promoted active living principles in the workplace by helping to develop a cycle-to-work program.

Developed successful partnerships with other organizations and community groups that resulted in the development of quality trail heads along the Central Lakes Trail in Douglas County; an updating of the county’s Comprehensive Plan; the development of a safe access point to the Central Lakes Trail as well as other amenities for pedestrians; and the implementation of policies and changes related to active living in schools, work sites and the community.

For more information on Active Living Douglas County, or to find out how you can get involved, contact Jessica Peterson at Douglas County Public Health at (320) 763-6018. For additional program resources, go to or visit Facebook.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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