Youth became a critical part of healthy community advocacy efforts in Louisville. Youth from several neighborhoods used surveys, Photovoice and digital storytelling to advocate for change with metro council members and city officials. Working with the local YMCA, they launched Metro Youth Advocates (MYA). Youth contributed to the establishment of several Healthy in a Hurry corner stores in food desert neighborhoods, the hiring of a young person as a produce manager to support the stores and the confirmation of Louisville as host of the 2014 Southern Obesity Summit. Youth remain involved in their community after their participation in MYA.
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Yet the city faced a number of interrelated social, economic and health challenges. Education rates were low. Not surprisingly, given the high prevalence of obesity among children and adults, its overall death rates for heart disease and stroke were higher than national averages.
The Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness and a variety of partners associated with the Mayor’s Healthy Hometown Movement collaborated to work with underserved neighborhoods in northwest Louisville and the city’s east downtown. These older neighborhoods historically experience limited access to fresh, healthy foods as well as safety and environmental problems that discourage physical activity.
However, together with residents and youth, the local Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities (HKHC) coalition advanced changes in the physical environment that support active living and healthy eating while expanding access to and distribution of healthy food.
Project director Marigny Bostock believes the HKHC grant will have a lasting impact on the community. “The experience and knowledge gained by HKHC prepares us in all our efforts to make this a healthier community for kids. Youth leaders have been active and stayed involved. And community members report that the walk shops are increasing civic engagement. This has been a great boost to our efforts in Louisville.”