Why they stand out
Fort Healthy’s coalition-based approach to health fuels the body as well as the soul, because they bridge local history, nature and arts to invite community members to be active together. The Fort Healthy walking trail signage, in Fort Atkinson’s Haumerson Pond Recreation Area, is bringing together local artists with local experts in history, nature, education, and health. Scheduled for completion in Spring 2019, collaborators will create visually engaging, bilingual signage in English and Spanish to draw people to the trail and get them talking, learning and interacting on newly enhanced trails while they walk. Partners selected Haumerson Park for this project specifically because the in town location will allow more residents to access it without a car. The new trail will become the latest asset in a brochure that features safe walking routes throughout Fort Atkinson. Originally created as a result of coalition members’ walk audits, and widely distributed at medical offices and fitness centers throughout the community, the brochure similarly integrates local history and encourages people to be outdoors and absorb the significance of the environment around them.
Passion for the community clearly guides Fort Healthy’s effort to put health within reach for all. One of the coalition's main movers and shakers is director, Vicki Wright. A retired elementary school principal with many local connections and a strong ability to develop partnerships, Wright has walked the talk for years. As a principal, she implemented walking programs for students and opened her school for community members to walk. Now she teaches Silver Sneakers classes to seniors at the local recreation center. In addition to Wright, a diverse range of partners involved in Fort Healthy influenced the creation of more walking trails throughout the city and continually leverage their expertise and connections to raise greater awareness for healthy living and relevant policy change.
Fort Healthy’s first steps into policy change came with their ‘Rethink Your Drink’ effort to increase water consumption, as water is a necessary in a physically active lifestyle. A poster campaign featured prominent local leaders drinking water, while stakeholders from the business and school community partnered to increase the number of water bottle filling stations locally. The Fort Atkinson School District ultimately developed a new policy allowing water bottles and prohibiting the sales of sugar sweetened beverages in schools. This success has inspired them to take on more work that addresses access to healthy choices. With continued partnership from the regional hospital system, Fort HealthCare, looks for Fort Atkinson to continue its growth as an expert in creating local places that support healthy choices.
Approach to Equity
Fort Healthy aims to integrate equity into all of their work. For example, the Haumerson Pond project was selected as the location for the latest project specifically because it provides trail access within walking distance for community members experiencing higher levels of poverty. This was not the case for the other potential location that had been under consideration.
The coalition is aware that Fort Atkinson’s demographics have shifted dramatically over the past 15 years to include many more Spanish-speaking residents. To ensure equitable access to the educational materials on the signage along the walking trail, they have the information in both Spanish and English. They have also been working closely with two members who are part of the Unity Project, a local group working to bridge cultural ties with newer Spanish speaking residents. They plan to continue building relationships within the Latino community and identify ways to create inclusive spaces in partnership with the community.