King County Brings Healthier Options to Hundreds of Thousands of Residents

"Let's Do This" campaign shows changes underway and how to get involved

Aug 02, 2011, 11:00 ET from Public Health - Seattle & King County

KING COUNTY, Wash., Aug. 2, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- SeaTac International Market, a neighborhood corner store, re-opens with more fresh and healthy foods. The Recovery Centers of King County, serving low-income clients, become smoke-free and provide support for quitting tobacco. These and many other pioneering changes are underway to prevent tobacco- and obesity-related diseases, two leading causes of preventable death in King County.

"We are working with our local cities, organizations and school districts to create a healthier King County," said King County Executive Dow Constantine. "When everybody has the chance to be healthy, our region's economy and quality of life can flourish."

During the last year, Public Health - Seattle & King County, and more than 50 partners – school districts, community-based organizations and local governments – have been busy changing neighborhoods so there are more healthy options and less unhealthy ones for hundreds of thousands of residents.

Now the coalition of partners is launching a new campaign, "Let's Do This King County" to educate residents about the changes happening, and how they can get involved in the work ahead. The campaign uses a television ad, videos, website and outdoor advertising.  

"We know from research and experience that creating healthy places to live, work, learn and play will save lives. It will also save money from health care and other expenses, such as lost productivity," said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County.

More than a third of the deaths in King County – about 4,000 each year — are a result of smoking, unhealthy eating and lack of physical activity. Persons in the most disadvantaged communities are three to four times more likely to be obese or smoke compared to the well-off neighborhoods.

To combat this trend, Public Health and partners are working to create sustainable community changes that increase access to physical activity and healthy food, decrease access to unhealthy food options, decrease tobacco use and limit exposure to secondhand smoke, particularly in areas where the need is greatest.

The work to create healthier communities is funded by one-time federal Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) grants awarded to Public Health - Seattle & King County from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Examples of nutrition and physical activity improvements

  • A total of 27 establishments and businesses so far have signed on to participate in Healthy Foods Here, a program to increase access to healthy food options through small corner and convenience stores.
  • Bicycle Alliance, in partnership with Feet First, is working with schools to implement Safe Routes to School in six school districts in King County, serving 124,000 students, so kids can walk and bike to school safely.
  • Land use and transportation plans in eight of our south King County cities incorporate specific elements of King County Board of Health Planning for Healthy Communities Guidelines, providing long term improved access to healthy food and physical activity for 600,000 residents.
  • A community-led Soda Free Sundays campaign encourages King County residents to take a break from sugary drinks for one day a week. More than 50 organizations have taken the Soda Free Sundays pledge.
  • School districts are improving nutrition in their school meals and the foods sold in high school stores and fundraisers.  Auburn School District has a "Commit to Fit" initiative with more than 4,000 students and staff participating.


Examples of tobacco prevention

  • 46 publicly funded mental health and chemical dependency treatment agencies in King County will integrate treatment protocols for tobacco addiction into their services and 38 of these will also be smoke-free by March 2012. Combined, these agencies serve nearly 60,000 clients per year.
  • Nine King County housing providers — including Seattle Housing Authority, King County Housing Authority and Housing Resources Group — plan to implement smoke-free policies by March 2012. Properties began officially converting 9,000 units to smoke-free in July of this year.
  • Harborview and University of Washington Medical Center joined Highline Medical Center in implementing a campus-wide smoke-free policy and implementing high-quality protocols for addressing tobacco dependence. Highline Medical Center serves around 10,000 in-patients and over 50,000 emergency room patients each year. UWMC, Harborview and their affiliated clinics account for 41,000 patient admissions and 1 million outpatient and emergency room visits each year.


These community-driven changes are all examples of how King County residents and organizations are beginning to understand that the burden of good health is shared by society, not just the individual.

"We are part of a larger national movement to invest in prevention and improve our community's health," said Shelley Cooper-Ashford, Executive Director of the Center for MultiCultural Health and a CPPW coalition co-chair. "Our new campaign highlights how all residents in King County can become involved in changes, big and small."  

A recent survey in King County indicates that a majority of residents understand that the places where people live can impact their health. Respondents also believe that individuals and local government have a shared role in creating healthier communities. Moreover, a majority of residents support specific actions to prevent obesity- and tobacco-related diseases, such as creating smoke-free places and providing opportunities for improved nutrition and physical activity for children in schools, child cares and communities.

More information about CPPW:

SOURCE Public Health - Seattle & King County