woman gesturing to her leftAPHA 2016 Annual Meeting and Expo attendees got a chance to learn the layout of their host city of Denver and how it promotes health, thanks to an annual Section event.

The Community Health Planning and Policy Development Section hosted its annual Day of Action on Monday at the McNichols Civic Center Building, followed by a series of “walkshop” tours through the city to explore how the built environment influences health. The annual Day of Action is held to explore public health issues important to the Annual Meeting host city.

Planned with the Physical Activity Section and Denver Environmental Health, the theme of this year’s Day of Action was “Working Across Sectors to Ensure Health in All Policies.” A health-in-all-policies approach encourages non-health related businesses and agencies in areas such as education and transportation to consider public health outcomes in their decision-making.

“We’re excited to bring the lens of the national conference and our public health workforce to talk about different ways we can work across sectors to ensure health equity,” said Amy Carroll-Scott, past chair of the CHPPD Section. “Certainly being out in this beautiful built environment and talking about all the ways we could directly observe how these sectors influence health was a great way we could do it.”

Health in all policies is the cornerstone of Public Health 3.0, said Karen DeSalvo, acting assistant secretary for health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at the event.

An initiative of HHS’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, Public Health 3.0 encourages policymakers, business owners and more to collaborate on reducing health inequity by addressing the social determinants of health.

DeSalvo told the crowd it was a privilege to meet with people who are doing the type of daily work she did on the frontlines when she was health commissioner of New Orleans.

“You all are the heart of what is important in making America not only healthy but vital,” DeSalvo said. “It’s the relationships of knowing each other, of trust, of setting not just goals but doing events like this together where you can build bonds and relationships that move communities forward.”

Allegra Happy Haynes, executive director of the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation, said the department has had to reinvent itself as an organization that maintained park grounds to one that creates department programming that promotes health, well-being and environmental awareness in Denver communities.

One of the paths to reinvention is through collaboration. Haynes said her department is also a partner with Denver Public Schools, where Haynes is also a school board member who has contributed to the school system’s fitness and nutrition master plan.

Additionally, all school-aged children ages 5-18 are eligible for a free My Denver Card that allows access to any Denver Parks and Recreation facility.

“We are your partners and I certainly encourage you as health professionals to reach out in your communities to the individuals managing your parks and recreation centers and pushing them to be your partners in this very important work to make our communities healthy and vibrant,” Haynes said.

Public health professionals led the walkshop tours through city thoroughfares, such as Colfax Street and the 16th Street Mall. During the walkshop of the 16th Street Mall, group leader Michele Shimomura, of the Denver Department of Environmental Health’s Community Health Division, pointed out features such as protected bike lanes and audio equipped crosswalks to alert vision-impaired residents when to safely cross the street.

Shimomura said there are also efforts to make the 16th Street Mall more active for families, as most people use it as a way to get from a bus stop to their jobs. One of those is Meet in the Street, a partnership of the Downtown Denver Partnership and the Downtown Denver Business Improvement District that shuts down bus and vehicle traffic and turns the street into a destination for fitness classes, arts programming and more.

“Shops have reported that…when it’s pedestrian only and buses aren’t going and they have an event, people stay and they shop and spend money there,” Shimomura said. “It’s another example of how making something more pedestrian friendly is good for businesses.”

Day of Action attendee Chris Corlis, from Casper, Wyoming, said the event showed him how cities can organize with different community partners to make it easier for people to get exercise in public spaces.

“One of the big health determinants is how active people are and how involved they get with the cities,” said Corlis, who works for the Casper-Natrona County Health Department. “This is a great way to see how cities can design their pedestrian zones to make it more user-friendly for people to use the city, move around in the city, walk in the city, which in turn helps public health outcomes.”

Michele Shimomura, far right, of the Denver Department of Environmental Health's Community Health Division, leads Section members on a walking tour of Denver. Photo by Natalie McGill/courtesy The Nation's Health