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Dallas Mayor Miller Initiates Action Plan to Help Residents Live Fitter, Healthier Lives

February 20, 2006


Dallas is known for its southern hospitality and great restaurants. In fact, Dallas has more restaurants per capita than any other city in the country. But many Dallas residents have indulged too much for far too long and that led to Men’s Fitness Magazine’s ranking of Dallas as the nation’s third fattest city in 2004. Since then, Dallas has taken significant steps to help residents’ live healthier lives.

Community Health Task Force

In the spring of 2004, Dallas County Judge Margaret Keliher and Dallas Mayor Laura Miller jointly commissioned a task force aimed at improving health in Dallas County.

The 50-member task force included representatives from medical, business, education, government, religious, civic and non-profit sectors. Over a three-month period, the task force performed research on national and worldwide best practices in health promotion, analyzed data on health in Dallas County, and gathered input from task force members and more than 20 other national and local health experts. The objective was to develop an action plan to create an “epidemic of health” in Dallas County. The plan focuses on the following:

  • Prevention: Most health care spending is aimed at treatment, but research has shown that well-designed prevention efforts can be highly effective in reducing the need for later treatment.

  • Improving Habits and Behaviors: Reduce poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, tobacco use and alcohol abuse.

  • Community-based efforts: Establish community-based, grass roots organizations and propagate them throughout the area. Implement tools in leadership to empower individuals to make healthy choices. Each model must include a broad array of social service networks.

  • Highest Potential for Impact Targets: Efforts will have the most impact when tailored to the specific need of the identified community versus using a standardized approach.

  • Eliminating Systematic Inhibitors: Unsafe neighborhoods, lack of supermarkets, lack of exercise facilities are all examples of things that inhibit the ability of people to practice healthy behaviors.

Since its inception, this Healthy Dallas task force has partnered with Central Dallas Ministries and the Foundation for Community Empowerment to organize the initiative and commission a director. A cross'county coalition has been formed to work together to achieve the targeted goals and replicate the models developed. The initial community-based organization has been formed and the pilot program is underway in a subsidized East Dallas community. The PACE (Personal and Community Empowerment) initiative is designed to build empowerment through specific skills and the hypothesis is that empowerment will lead to positive health outcomes, which will be measured.

“Lighten-Up Big D!”

In 2004, Men’s Fitness Magazine ranked Dallas the third fattest city in America and Houston the second fattest city. In response, Miller launched Dallas’ first citywide fitness initiative called “Lighten-Up Big D.” The campaign asked residents to exercise 30 minutes a day and the mayor issued a challenge to Houston residents.

Miller bet Houston Mayor Bill White that Dallas would get further down the Men’s Fitness list in 2005 with the “Lighten-Up Big D” fitness program. Area companies and organizations were asked to encourage and help their employees to exercise and get educated about health and fitness. A point system was developed where individuals earned points every time they exercised, ate a nutritious meal, attended a lunchtime health seminar, etc. The companies that had the employees with the most number of points were recognized as the “Most Fit Companies in Dallas.”

In 2005, Men’s Fitness Magazine ranked Dallas the 6th fattest city in America (versus the 3rd fattest city in 2004).

“Get A Move On”

In October of 2005 the “Lighten-Up Big D” program evolved into a new campaign. “Get A Move On” is taking on childhood obesity by taking its “move more” message to Dallas schools. The energy balance curriculum targets more than 10,000 3rd graders in 157 elementary schools. Each student receives a pedometer, which counts an individual’s steps, and through the curriculum provided to teachers, the tools to use it. The program targets students at a key grade level when they are becoming more aware of the choices available to them and can make decisions that will impact their future health. One of the major benefits of the curriculum will come when the 3rd graders go home and ask mom and dad to go walking or running with them, thus getting parents to move more too.

Mayor’s Race: 2003, 2004 and 2005

The “Mayor’s Race” was organized as part of the citywide fitness initiative. The 5K Fun Run and Walk was born in 2003. The race, part of Dallas’ White Rock Marathon weekend, is designed to encourage families and young people to get outside and exercise together. It is free to Dallas school children. More than 2,000 runners and walkers participate and New Balance has given away 250 pairs of running shoes to school children who ran the race.

For more information, contact Frank Librio, Chief of Staff, Office of the Mayor, at 214-670-4054 or via email at frank.librio@dallascityhall.com.