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In early November, Lancaster General Health hosted parents, educators, and community leaders at BURLE Business Park to identify ways to collaborate to create an environment in Lancaster City that supports healthy, physically active children.

The 2016 Health and Physical Literacy Summit, coordinated by the School District of Lancaster and Lancaster Rec and sponsored by Lancaster General Health, brought together stakeholders from education, healthcare, businesses, government, and community organizations. Lancaster City Mayor Rick Gray; Dr. Damaris Rau and Matt Pryzwara of the School District of Lancaster; and Brenda Buescher of LG Health welcomed the participants and praised their commitment to work collaboratively to address the serious health issues facing our youth, such as obesity, depression and mental health problems, and substance misuse and abuse.

Risa Isard of The Aspen Institute presented Physical Literacy in the United States: A Model, Strategic Plan, and Call to Action.  “Physical literacy programs,” Isard said, “build the movement skills and motivation that youth need to be physically active for life.” 

Helping children learn basic movements like running, jumping, throwing, catching, and balancing gives them the ability to participate in a variety of recreational or competitive sports throughout their lives. This is particularly important for groups with the lowest rates of physical activity and sports participation: children from low-income families, youth who are racial and ethnic minorities, girls, and children with physical or developmental disabilities.

Interactive panel discussions sparked conversations on how we can support healthy, active children in Lancaster City:

  • Mike McKenna of the Community Action Partnership (CAP) facilitated a discussion about removing barriers to fresh, healthy food.  Reducing food waste, educating the community about how to get involved with efforts to address food insecurity, and improving transportation options for people to access food are key priorities.  Health educator Sue Lackmann participated in the panel to discuss LG Health’s school gardens initiative.

  • A discussion with Chris Caldwell of The Common Wheel, Mike Domin of the Lancaster County Planning Commission, and Lydia Martin of the Lancaster County Conservancy focused on the built environment for physical activity.  The panel and audience members focused on the need for safe and connected pathways for walking and bicycling, better public transportation, and natural green spaces (small and large) that are accessible to everyone for relaxation and play.

  • Students, parents, and educators from the School District of Lancaster discussed common barriers to participating in sports: lack of transportation, the high cost for equipment and private lessons, and responsibilities at home. To make sure more students receive the benefits of participating in sports, it is important to offer opportunities to try sports in physical education, encourage athletes to recruit their friends, and find creative ways to meet transportation needs.

  • A session called “Let’s Play!” demonstrated ways to include physical activity in education and child care. These valuable techniques can be taught to teachers and child care providers throughout the City to incorporate more movement into the day for youth.  Community-health educator Lauren Finn gave a presentation about the importance of physical activity for improving health and educational outcomes.

Each participant made a personal commitment to help support healthy, active children in Lancaster City.  Over the next several months, LG Health will work with the School District of Lancaster, Lancaster Rec, and other Summit planning committee members to identify next steps for this collaborative effort.

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