Oswego County has the highest adult obesity rate among all its neighboring counties, and the highest school student obesity rate in the state. The heavy disease burden from these deadly conditions in the county could be alleviated by community behavioral changes.
Public health, planning and transportation consultant Mark Fenton shared these statistics with representatives from the Oswego County Health and Community Development Departments, ARISE, Oswego YMCA, SUNY Oswego, Oswego City School District, Oswego City Common Council, Integrated Community Planning of Oswego County, OCO and the Oswego City Police Department Tuesday during a walking audit of Kingsford Park and Downtown Oswego. Fenton, who has a master’s degree in engineering from MIT and worked previously at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and Reebok and hosted “America’s Walking” on the Public Broadcasting Station, uses his background in engineering and biomechanics to help design communities that support healthier and more physically active lives for its residents.
During the tour, he offered solutions that could be implemented in the city to make it more accessible to active transportation, such as walking or biking. “There’s a body of evidence that says you can build places where people will tend to be more physically active even if they don’t choose to, just by daily life,” Fenton said.
The tour began at the Kingsford Park School to address parent pick up and drop off concerns from the previous school year. “This neighborhood is a great destination, you have a park, playground, splash pad, ice rink and open space. This is a great area, you just have to make people feel safe enough to travel here.”
Fenton led the group down West 1st Street to the Business District where the group noted that the large side walks and tree lined street made the experience enjoyable and pleasant to walk around. “You could absolutely put in curb extensions in this area and still have large trucks able to turn. This is a remnant of the automobile era, when we thought what makes a downtown economically successful is more people driving there,” Fenton said of Bridge Street and Downton. “What makes a downtown successful is more people living, walking and shopping there.”
Fenton was hosted through grant funds given by HealtheCommunities, a sub set of HealtheCNY, that celebrates the counties and cities in Central New York that have taken action to create healthy communities. The project shows what our healthiest neighbors in CNY do and inspires others to make similar changes.
HealtheCommunities is a project of the Central New York Population Health Improvement Program (PHIP). It was designed to help support local efforts to make healthy choices easier and prevent obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic diseases.