Creating Better Choices

If you’re feeling unproductive today, take a minute to think about all the choices you’ve faced and the decisions you’ve made.

How did you get to work—drive, or maybe catch the bus or ride your bicycle? Was breakfast a decision between burritos, bananas or nothing at all? Did you take the elevators or stairs when you got to the office?

See how much you’ve already accomplished?

National Public Health Week (NPHW), which kicked off Monday, draws attention to the small stuff—starting small but thinking big to improve the nation’s health. One theme is “A healthier America begins with active living and healthy eating.” How do small, daily decisions impact health? All things being the same, adding 12 ounces of a sugar-sweetened beverage per day can lead to a 15-pound weight gain. Little things can accumulate quickly.

But not every person or every community has the same menu of choices. A recent study found that people living in low-income communities are less likely to encounter sidewalks and street/sidewalk lighting. Fresh fruit for breakfast may not be so easy to come by.

Communities and organizations across the state are working to make “healthy” the default, the easiest and most available choice. Public policy can support these efforts. Think safe routes to school, land use agreements, physical activity requirements in schools, fresh food financing.

No one forced me to ride my bike to work today, but having a dedicated bike lane available for most of my ride made it a little easier to decide.

What opportunities do you see for aligning policy to facilitate healthier decisions? 

Sara Schmitt is the director of community health policy at CHI.