The Borough of Madison is undergoing an extraordinary transformation from simply a health-conscious municipality to a proactively health-promoting community.
Like many cities and towns across our state, the Borough of Madison boasts various local groups dedicated to promoting health and fitness among borough residents. While we have been fortunate to have a number of organizations– both public and private—devoted to improving health and wellness, for many years we lacked a focused plan for making the borough as a whole more fitness-friendly. Every day we see Madison residents dashing to catch a train or commute locally or drive the kids to events. With such a time-pressed population, what could Madison as a municipality do to make health and fitness options as easily accessible as possible? More importantly, what could I as Mayor do to advocate for greater well-being right here at home?
The answer came late last year when I was introduced to the Mayors Wellness Campaign (MWC). A statewide initiative dedicated to improving health and well-being among New Jersey residents by promoting active lifestyles for all, the MWC provides municipalities with a wealth of resources for promoting healthy lifestyles in its MWC Toolbox. The Toolbox details programs that are easily adaptable to New Jersey communities for youth, employees, seniors and communities. An “on-line” version of the toolbox is also available at the program’s website at www.mayorswellnesscampaign.org.
As someone who has long been an advocate for efforts to increase interest in and access to healthy living resources, I immediately recognized the unparalleled benefits of partnering with the Mayor’s Wellness Campaign to serve the people of Madison.
With the decision for proactive involvement made, Madison moved forward to implement the Mayors Wellness Campaign in our community. Our approach was threefold and included detailing our partnerships, purpose and principles.
Partnerships Prior to our involvement with the Mayor’s Wellness Campaign, I had identified several individuals, organizations and programs within Madison that contributed to the community’s overall quality of life. These included our Health Educator, Recreation Director, Senior Citizens Coordinator, local YMCA, public school system, public library, Drew University Wellness Program Coordinator and a number of businesses—both large and small—in the sports, fitness and health fields. These groups were invited to join the Madison Mayors Wellness Campaign Team.
As a team, we were able to secure funding support from the Wyeth Corporation, a global corporation with headquarters in Madison, and from Aetna, a statewide sponsor of the MWC. In addition, the Borough Council endorsed the MWC effort, and the Madison Eagle, our local community newspaper, announced plans for a special insert section dedicated to the Mayor’s Wellness Campaign.
The establishment of these solid partnerships laid the foundation for us to move forward towards defining our purpose.
Purpose While the Mayor’s Wellness Campaign Team members contribute expertise and experience in various areas of health and wellness, working together, we developed a unified vision statement for bettering the quality of life of all Madison residents. Our vision is “To transform Madison into a community that visibly encourages and practices active living, healthy nutrition and wellness for all ages.”
Our purpose is specific enough to provide a clear framework for action, yet broad enough to incorporate the diversity of ideas and services presented by our team’s members. Furthermore, from our purpose we were able to outline specific principles of action that would enable us to realize the vision of healthy living.
Principles The Mayors Wellness Campaign Team identified four principles that would be essential for us to apply in order to accomplish our purpose: educate, motive, identify, and enable.
Educate We aim to raise community awareness of the numerous and serious health risks associated with obesity and the many chronic diseases coinciding with a sedentary lifestyle.
Motivate We seek to encourage the public to adopt healthier lifestyles through enhanced nutrition and regular physical activity.
Identify We will research existing resources available to health seekers and communicate health and wellness opportunities to the public in order to facilitate the transition to healthier living.
Enable We will work with both public and private sectors of society to identify existing resources and
Madison Mayor Elwood Kerkeslager shakes hands with former Governor Jim Florio, who is helping to promote the Mayors Wellness Campaign
create new opportunities for healthier living.
Snapshot: The Mayor’s Wellness Campaign in Action In Madison, the results of this community effort have been remarkable. Through cooperative promotion of existing wellness programs in town, the Mayor’s Wellness Campaign Team experienced immediate success as the programs we promoted enjoyed increased participation. On May 31 of this year, I had the privilege of participating in the Borough of Madison’s Celebration of National Senior Health & Fitness Day. The celebration marked the close of National Physical Fitness and Sports Day, and in Madison, we ended our day with an evening walk sponsored by our local walking club, the Rose City Steppers.
Prior to the MWC, Madison was already reaping the benefits of sidewalks and bikeways, strong infrastructure in our recreation fields, and several fitness and wellness programs. Through the monthly meetings of the MWC Team, however, we have been able to identify new infrastructure that will further enhance our ability to be a pedestrian-, biking-, and fitness-friendly community. We have already begun to identify and mark bikeways and walking paths on our streets throughout the borough. We are working towards improving our parks and recreational fields and promoting their use among the public. Moreover, we look forward to seeing more of our local restaurants offer “healthy menu” options for area diners.
Through the synergistic effort of the numerous Madison MWC Team members and with the invaluable backing and support of the statewide New Jersey Mayor’s Wellness Campaign staff, the Borough of Madison is undergoing an extraordinary transformation from simply a health-conscious municipality to a proactively health-promoting community.
Just as we have taken steps to reverse the trend of obesity and sedentary living within our borough, so every municipality in New Jersey can take advantage of the tools, resources and direct support offered by the Mayor’s Wellness Campaign and begin down the path towards a better quality of life for all.