Profiles of the Green and Frugal: Advocates for Health in Action

>> Tuesday, June 16, 2009

They call themselves AHA, as if they're saying, "Aha, I've got it!" And what they've got is certainly important - an organization that encourages Wake County to eat healthier and increase physical activity.

Since its inception in 2007 by WakeMed and the John Rex Endowment, thirty-five organizations in the area have gotten involved in the Advocates for Health in Action, including Alliance Medical Ministry, City of Raleigh Planning Department, the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, Marbles Kids Museum, and Wake County Public Schools.

Says Laura Aiken, the organization's director, "We saw a need for our community to have an organized and unified response to the policy and environmental issues that negatively impact the ability to eat healthy and be physically active."

What Do They Do?

AHA has focused their efforts on the following four categories: community gardens; access and environment; engagement and inclusion; and public relations and communications.

According to Aiken, the organization is taking action in these categories through the following goals:

  • "Increase the number of informed, engaged and involved public that support healthy eating and physical activity.
  • "Increase visibility of community assets – showcase and celebrate existing people, places and programs that increase access to healthful foods and physical activity opportunities.
  • "Identify and recommend locally supported approaches to increasing the number of families that eat healthy and get recommended amounts of physical activity.
  • "Identify and recommend community improvements that will enable equal access (affordable and available) to healthy foods and physical activity environments (parks, playgrounds, trails, greenways).
  • "Maintain and increase the number of organizations actively participating in AHA work groups.
  • "Increase the number of community leaders that champion healthy eating and physical activity as a way of life and actively support policies that make these options more available within Wake County.
  • "Establish a youth advisory council and advocacy group – Youth Advocates for Health in Action (YAHA).
  • "Work with youth serving organizations to shape policy that creates a healthy food and physical activity environment."
What Have They Done?

You might be familiar with one of AHA's initiatives through Marbles Kids Museum: the Power2Play exhibit, where kids can swim in peas and carrots, play hockey in their socks, and climb a rock wall.

One of AHA's best resources is the community gardens page of their website, which includes information on area gardens, farmer's markets, pick-your-own farms, and CSAs. The organization is also putting together a map "
with all healthy food and physical activity resources highlighted for advocacy and community use," according to Aiken.

AHA has also organized interactive workshops with area PTAs called "
Brains and Bodies: How the community can influence the health and academic success of children." Attendees of these workshops disccuss methods for reducing childhood obesity and encorporating health and physical activity into Wake County schools.

In addition,
Aiken states that "work has initiated to increase access to affordable local, fresh foods to citizens of Wake County," "to promote ideas and provide resources for children to walk to school safely," and "to facilitate the conversion of unused land to community gardens."

How Do I Get Involved?

Anyone can get involved with the Advocates for Health in Action through the contact page of their website. You can also use the contact page to sign up for the ListServ.


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