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For Every Kid launches health campaign for local students

Photo Credit: COURTESY OF FOR EVERY KID - A coalition calling itself For Every Kid unveiled an effort to provide youngsters in the three-county region with a safe place to get more physical activity. In a campaign kickoff in front of Linwood Elementary School Saturday morning, Nov. 8, proponents called on Metro to dedicate funds for safe routes to schools in every school district in Washington, Multnomah and Clackamas counties.Saturday morning, on the front steps of Linwood Elementary School, community advocates from across the Metro region were joined by Milwaukie Mayor Jeremy Ferguson, public health leaders and parents as they unveiled a new effort to improve the health and safety for kids in the tri-county area.

Metro-area kids who most need opportunities for physical activity don’t have the necessary safe infrastructure — sidewalks, crosswalks and bike lanes — in their communities and around their schools to support a healthy childhood.

“It’s hard to deny the voice of our children’s needs,” said Ferguson. “After all, they are our future. I support creating safe routes to school to help protect our children while building their confidence, and at the same time investing for a healthier and more active community.”

In the tri-county region, 70 percent of eighth-graders reported not getting the daily recommended amount of exercise they need to be healthy, according to the 2013 Oregon Healthy Teens Survey. Lack of physical activity is a leading factor for obesity, diabetes and heart disease — a problem for Oregon, where one out of four kids is considered overweight or obese.

“No single change will reverse the obesity epidemic, but we do know one critical component of the solution: Increased physical activity and education,” said Dr. Minot Cleveland, advocacy chair for the American Heart Association in Oregon. “The evidence is clear: physical activity is preventive medicine at its best — and safe routes to schools can help.”

The American Heart Association and other leading health organizations, such as the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, recommend that children and adolescents have at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Walking and biking to school could help kids achieve over half of their daily recommended physical activity.

In the coming months, the Metro Council has the opportunity to dedicate critical funding that could help shape a healthy future for every kid in the tri-county area.

The new coalition, For Every Kid, called on Metro to dedicate funding for safe routes to schools for every school district in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties.

An effective project would include a needs assessment for schools, infrastructure improvements within a one-mile radius around the school, and education and encouragement programs for bicycle and pedestrian safety.

Advocates are also asking for expanded support of the youth pass for high school students, so teenagers can benefit from the physical activity associated with public transit use to and from school.

Linwood Elementary is just one of the schools where the demand for additional safety and physical activity is high. The Parent Teacher Association recently completed a needs assessment that highlighted dangers around the school, including the lack of sidewalks and unsafe crossings.

“Linwood Elementary is a wonderful neighborhood school and a hub in our community,” said principal Amy Busch. “We would be thrilled to have additional safe routes to school which would help to protect our students as they walk or bike to school.”

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