Category Archives: Live Well Stories

Borough of Green Tree Designated as Newest Live Well Allegheny Community

June 30, 2016

Live_Well_Green-Tree-BoroughPITTSBURGH – Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, County Council Member Jim Ellenbogen and Dr. Karen Hacker of the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) today designated the Borough of Green Tree as the county’s latest Live Well Allegheny Community during the borough’s Health & Fitness Fair. The borough’s participation raises the number of Live Well Allegheny communities to 25.

“It is thrilling to see so many communities in Allegheny County embrace the Live Well Allegheny initiative and its goals,” said Fitzgerald. “We know that we have seen improvements, generally, in the health of our county over the past few years and with so many communities joining us in this effort, I have no doubt that we will continue to see progress, and an even healthier Allegheny County moving forward.”

The Borough of Green Tree hosted its first Live Well Health & Fitness Fair at its Farmers Market at Green Tree Park. In addition to representatives of the Health Department and Human Services, the Food Bank and American Diabetes Association also participate in the event along with local health coaches, yoga instructors and others.

“I’m very excited to see another municipality from District 12 join the Live Well Allegheny program. With Green Tree’s commitment, all I commend their elected officials for taking this step to help the county become healthier,” said Ellenbogen. “The residents of Green Tree already have a large number of resources available to them, and I have no doubt that with their participation in this effort, we will continue to make progress.”

In its ordinance for Live Well Allegheny, Green Tree Council indicated that the borough has already implemented many of the goals of the campaign including:

  • Promoting participation in a voluntary wellness campaign for the borough’s employees
  • Sharing information on recreation and learning events with the broader community
  • Developing and maintaining outdoor wellness trails accessible to residents of all abilities
  • Developing and displaying walking maps and measuring the distances mapped to encourage residents to meet goals
  • Offering and adding health foods offered in borough-owned concession stands

“We’re excited to see Green Tree join our efforts to make the county a healthier place. With the borough on board, we have engaged 25 communities in Live Well Allegheny,” said Hacker. “We’re going to continue our efforts until all 130 municipalities are part of the campaign.”

Moving forward, the borough has committed to:

  • Developing incentives for employees who walk or bike to work
  • Encouraging multi-modal transportation of residents by providing facilities or policies that encourage walking and bike riding
  • Working with vending companies to post calories and nutrient contents and amounts for the foods offered in borough-owned vending machines and concession stands
  • Expanding existing smoke-free zones in buildings, perimeters and parks

“Green Tree has many amenities, such as our walking track, trails, parks, pool and great recreation programs, that enable our residents to exercise – but we need to do more,” said Mark Sampogna, Green Tree Council President. “Joining the Live Well Allegheny program puts us on the right path with access to many other resources. It’s all part of providing a good quality of life for our borough residents.”

Live Well Allegheny was launched in January 2014 as a comprehensive, innovative strategy on wellness that embraces a broad concept of living well to include physical health, mental wellness, personal and community safety, prevention and preparedness, and much more. The effort is being led by the Board of Health and Health Department Director Dr. Karen Hacker.

Forum: How do we create healthy neighborhoods for all?

Allegheny County Health Director Karen Hacker, MD, MPH, participated in an hour-long online forum sponsored by the Urbankind Institute of Pittsburgh. The forum, live-streamed and recorded on June 17, was titled: My Neighborhood; How do we create healthy, opportunity-rich neighborhoods for all?

Panelists included: Dr. Karen Hacker; Dawn Plummer, Director of Pittsburgh Policy Food Council; Presley Gillespie, President, Neighborhood Allies; Stephanie Boddie, CMU; Candi Castleberry Singleton, CEO Dignity and Respect Inc.; and Kyra Straussman, Director of Real Estate Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Live Well Allegheny Recieves 2-Yr. Richard King Mellon Grant

Funding Extends Initiatives to Improve the Health of County Residents

Richard_King_Mellon_Foundation_logoThe Allegheny County Health Department announced today that it is has received an additional $1,500,000 two-year grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to continue its Live Well Allegheny efforts to enhance food access by eliminating food deserts and by expanding opportunities for physical activity through built environment changes. While Live Well Allegheny targets the entire County, this grant provides resources for a special emphasis on disadvantaged communities and builds on the success of a prior one-year grant.

“We are particularly excited about this grant because it represents three years of funding from the Richard King Mellon Foundation for our collective efforts to improve health of residents in Allegheny County,” said Dr. Karen Hacker, Director of the Allegheny County Health Department. “The projects that are funded as part of Live Well Allegheny are beginning to have a measurable impact and we look forward to continued work.”

Several stakeholders involved in the work will also receive funding as part of this project, including Allegheny County Economic Development, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Just Harvest, and the United Way of Allegheny County/fitUnited. RAND Health is helping with the evaluation.

Following are several of the accomplishments achieved with the first year of funding and plans for the next two years:

  • Allegheny County Economic Development Department launched the Active Allegheny Grant Program to provide financial assistance to communities to develop plans and design transportation projects that will, when implemented, increase residents’ opportunities for physical activity. To date, two projects have been funded and seven more applications have been received for review. This grant opportunity will be extended by two additional years to promote active transportation and the implementation of the Active Allegheny Plan.
  • Just Harvest expanded the Fresh Access Program to five additional farmer’s markets in 2015 and 2016, enabling people to use their SNAP and EBT benefits at farmer’s markets to purchase fruits and vegetables. Food stamp sales have soared by 80% in 2015 over the previous year. All Fresh Access markets also participate in the Food Bucks fresh produce incentive program adding even more buying power for low-income residents to get fresh fruit and vegetables with their food stamps. People can visit the newest Fresh Access markets in Wilkinsburg, West Homestead, Moon Township, Homewood and Sharpsburg.
  • Just Harvest launched the Fresh Corners Program to get corner stores in communities considered to be food deserts to sell healthier foods including fresh produce. So far, four stores have joined including Rocks Express, In-and-Out corner Market, a newly-opened market connected to 5 Generations Bakers in McKees Rocks and LA Grocery in the Larimer section of Pittsburgh. Moving forward, Just Harvest will continue to work with store owners, local government officials, community stakeholders and potential grocery start-ups to bring Fresh Corners to more areas of high need.
  • The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank launched the Green Grocer Program, a mobile farmers market that travels to food desert communities to provide the fresh food options. The Green Grocer is currently making stops every week in six different communities including North Oakland, the Northside, Clairton, Mt. Oliver/Knoxville, Homewood and Wilmerding. To date, there have been 1,859 sales transactions.
  • fitUnited expanded the Live Well Allegheny campaign through outreach to youth serving and corporate partners, raising $75,000 for increased physical activity and improved nutrition programs. Fifty-three fitUnited partners have joined the Live Well Allegheny While continuing to take the Live Well Allegheny message to day care centers across the county, fitUnited also has a large Day of Action planned on June 11 on the Northside, with an anticipated 200 volunteers.
  • The Allegheny County Health Department initiated the Allegheny Health Survey which is currently underway. It will provide data that can be used to gauge the effectiveness of current programs and determine areas in need of improvement to best meet the needs of county residents. It is expected to be completed later this summer.

Live Well Allegheny was launched in January 2014 as a comprehensive, innovative strategy on wellness that embraces a broad concept of living well to include physical health, mental wellness, personal and community safety, prevention and preparedness, and much more.

The initiative has expanded greatly since its inception. Today, there are 24 Live Well Allegheny Communities with 589,835 residents, six Live Well Allegheny Schools with an enrollment of 46,546 children and 24 Live Well Allegheny Restaurants. The addition of Live Well Allegheny Workplaces is underway, providing another opportunity for county residents to engage in a healthy lifestyle behaviors. All of the Live Well Allegheny accomplishments are documented in the recently released report which is available on the web site at the following link:

Municipality of Monroeville Receives Live Well Allegheny Designation

May 26, 2016

Announcement made at Celebration of National Senior Health & Fitness Day

Live_Well_MonroevilleThe Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) announced today that the Municipality of Monroeville is the latest to receive designation as a Live Well Allegheny community. Their participation brings the number of Live Well Allegheny communities to 24 as they embrace the countywide effort to “live well.”

Live Well Allegheny is about building healthy communities for all residents,” said Dr. Karen Hacker, Director of the Allegheny County Health Department. “I commend Monroeville for their commitment to living well across the life span. We have heard from several Allegheny County communities about the importance of residents being able to live healthier right in their own community. Monroeville is a good example of this as they are providing resources for young and older residents.”

The Live Well Allegheny designation occurred earlier this afternoon at the Monroeville Senior Center as part of the celebration of National Senior Health and Fitness Day. The senior center organized a schedule of events including fitness classes, educational seminars and tours of the new functional fitness stations located in the fitness center.

“Having a healthy community applies to everyone, no matter their age, gender, physical ability or health, which is why it’s so thrilling to see Monroeville celebrate its Live Well Allegheny designation at a Senior Health & Fitness Day,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “Our region has long been recognized as one of the best places to retire because of the access to health facilities, opportunities for continuing education, a low cost of living and public transportation coverage. We’re proud of the fact that older Americans can live safe, independent and healthy lives here in Allegheny County.”

In its ordinance for Live Well Allegheny, Monroeville Council has agreed to following actions to encourage its residents to live a healthy lifestyle:

  • Share wellness information with employees and the broader community
  • Plan and implement a Live Well Allegheny event in cooperation with the campaign that encourages active living
  • Encourage multi-modal transportation of residents by providing information about public transportation along with biking and walking resources
  • Develop walking maps and measure distances mapped
  • Promote and support farmer’s markets with emphasis on helping all of Monroeville residents have access to fresh and healthy foods
  • Work with local food banks to help ensure access their to healthy foods
  • Provide information regarding leisure activities for children and teens in Monroeville

“I’m proud to represent Monroeville and excited to have the community join the Live Well Allegheny campaign,” said Council Member Dr. Charles Martoni. “Today, Monroeville joins District 8 communities Braddock Hills, Chalfant and Turtle Creek in making our county healthier as Live Well Allegheny communities. I look forward to having many, many more join us in the months to come.”

Monroeville Mayor, Gregory Erosenko said, “I am very excited that Live Well Allegheny is coming to Monroeville and that our residents will be able to participate in this healthy initiative. It is always good to take care of ourselves so that we can live long, healthy lives.”

Live Well Allegheny was launched in January 2014 as a comprehensive, innovative strategy on wellness that embraces a broad concept of living well to include physical health, mental wellness, personal and community safety, prevention and preparedness, and much more. The effort is being led by the Board of Health and Health Department Director Dr. Karen Hacker.

Two Municipalities & Two School Districts Join Live Well Allegheny!

Live Well Allegheny is proud to announce that the boroughs of Sewickley and Turtle Creek, along with the McKeesport Area and West Allegheny School Districts, are the four newest members of the county’s Live Well Allegheny campaign. Their participation brings the number of Live Well Allegheny communities to 22 and school districts to five as they embrace the countywide effort to “live well.”

“It’s extremely exciting to add four more members to Live Well Allegheny,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “Our goal from the beginning is to have the engagement and involvement of a vast number of stakeholders in this effort, because it’s only by working together that we’re going to be able to help our community be healthier.”

“Each new Live Well Allegheny commitment expands the impact of our collective effort to improve the health of Allegheny County residents,” said Dr. Karen Hacker, Director of the Allegheny County Health Department. “All of our Live Well communities and schools working together can promote simple changes to make their residents healthier. Whether it is offering employee wellness programs or access to bike and pedestrian trails, or healthier food options in schools, these are things which will surround residents with opportunities and help make the healthy choice the default choice.”

Live_Well_W-Allegheny-SchoolsIn Council District 1, the West Allegheny School District is committed to creating a community of learners who value wellness, specifically nutrition, fitness, and personal safety. The district’s Live Well Allegheny commitment is in four main areas including an active wellness committee that meets throughout the year to plan for wellness initiatives. Staff wellness activities include a partnership with FitBit to enable staff to purchase FitBits at a reduced cost, a Biggest Loser competition for staff and a summer fitness challenge. Student-centered wellness activities that includes a commitment to physical education classes including swimming, recess every day and Wellness Walks conducted periodically at the elementary school. Community partnerships which include working with the food service provider on the provision of fruit and vegetables offered at every meal including 2% milk options, healthy fundraising activities and an annual 5k event. The district is planning a Live Well Allegheny wellness fair to take place in 2016.

“I am thrilled that the West Allegheny School District will be part of Live Well Allegheny. The district is planning a variety of initiatives and opportunities planned to empower students, teachers, staff and families to make healthier and more active decisions inside and outside of school to better themselves mentally and physically,” said District 1 Council Member Tom Baker. “This will go a long way to positively influence the lives of the students from North Fayette Township and Findlay Township in District 1 in Allegheny County.”

Live_Well_McKeesport-Area-SchoolLikewise, in Council District 9, the Board of Directors of the McKeesport Area School District made a commitment to a comprehensive healthy schools program. They will offer fruits and vegetables at all meals and 2% milk instead of whole milk, utilize web sites and social media to provide information on physical activity, nutrition, stress management, tobacco cessation and other wellness initiatives as well as promote increased consumption of water. The McKeesport Area School District is the second district to join from the Mon Valley as part of the Live Well Mon Valley Initiative.

“Your diet, the way you live, and how you exercise are important things,” said District 9 Council Member Robert Macey.  “They’re important for your health and well-being, but also impact your ability to learn and achieve your goals. I’m thrilled to see the school district recognize that connection and proud that they are a part of the Live Well Allegheny campaign.”

Live_Well_Turtle-Creek-BoroughTurtle Creek Borough in District 8 joins five other municipalities as part of the Live Well Mon Valley Initiative in making a commitment to smoke-free buildings and parks, promoting a farmer’s market, making a commitment to plan a wellness event, promoting walking and biking activities and trail projects. The borough will also encourage the adoption of healthier food options at community events and promote wellness information to residents in a variety of ways including on web sites and on social media.

“Promoting quality of life, healthy development and positive health behaviors is important because it impacts each person individually by increasing quality and years of healthy life,” said District 8 Council Member Dr. Charles Martoni. “I am excited to see so many of our communities recognizing the importance of being healthy, but also supporting efforts for its residents to live healthier. I’m so proud to have so many District 8 communities committing to live well.”

Live_Well_Sewickley-BoroughSewickley Borough in Council District 2 passed a Live Well Allegheny resolution in September 2015. The borough has an extensive 5-year employee wellness program including increasing steps, weight loss, heart rate awareness and annual physicals. Also, as part of their membership in the Municipal Benefits Services for health care services they were able to purchase FitBits for every employee. The municipality has made a commitment to smoke-free parks and buildings and supports a weekly farmer’s market that is held at St. James Church. Each year there are four 5k events held in Sewickley Borough. In addition, wellness is promoted to residents on both the borough web site and Sewickley TV.

“Promoting good health has an impact on individuals and communities, as well as their living conditions, and enhances the quality of life for everyone,” said District 2 Council Member Jan Rea. “Encouraging people to make choices that benefit themselves is not always an easy task, but efforts such as Live Well Allegheny engage residents and communities in making those decisions together. The buy-in from District 2 communities is exciting, and as we all begin working together more closely on initiatives, our residents and communities will benefit.”

Start. Then Build. Live Well Duquesne City School District.

Small Steps, Early Successes, and Big (Playground) Plans for Duquesne City School District

When you’re a trailblazer, sometimes you need a little help clearing the path. Sometimes, you just need to call in the Marines.

Such was the case with the Duquesne City School District, which was the very first school or school system to sign on as a Live Well Allegheny participant in 2014.

The Marines showed up in force for the district’s inaugural Live Well “Move-a-thon” event, along with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh, Boys & Girls Clubs of Western PA, California University of Pennsylvania, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Giant Eagle, Kennywood Park, Mascaro Corporation, PA Army National Guard, Taylor Rental, and the U.S. Air Force.

Move-a-Thon featured various exercise stations and areas devoted to healthy snacks to help students, their families, and community members learn how seemingly small (and easy to implement) activities and diet choices can rapidly deliver healthier lifestyles.

“It’s a little scary to be first out of the gate, but thanks to the terrific collaboration of so many groups Move-a-Thon was a huge hit and really shows that Duquesne cares about our families,” says Alicia Chico, coordinator of Duquesne’s Live Well Allegheny programming.

Citing the active support of acting-superintendent Barbara McDonnell, a Duquesne native and veteran educator with 25 years of experience in the mental health and public education fields, Chico maintains that success won’t be measured by large events alone, no matter how successful.

“Beyond its merits as a highly visible, galvanizing event, Move-a-thon shows all these great young people how important – and easy – it is to make healthier choices day in and day,” says Chico. “It also said to other communities ‘Hey, look at Duquesne! We’re doing good things here and continuing to make progress!’”

One such area of day-to-day progress is in its snacking options; the district now offers fresh fruits and vegetables through the generosity of Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank’s “Kids Cook!” program.

Another area is in adult role-modeling. Chico relates that teachers and staff are more visibly engaged in healthy activities, ranging from smarter snacking to walking in the gym on their breaks.

“At an impressionable age, this kind of ‘Show, Not Tell’ approach can have a huge impact in terms of daily behavior,” says Chico (The district educates students from kindergarten to sixth grade; middle and high school students attend nearby East Allegheny or West Miflin Area school districts).

This “get-‘em-while-they’re-young” approach also informs two larger Live Well Allegheny projects being planned for next year: A strategic partnership with the YMCA of McKeesport and a new playground.

“The Y came in to take a look at our facilities and we’ve started discussions about a range of topics — after-school programming, intramural sports programs, and summer camps. To bring them into this community would be such an asset because there’s a real need for additional resources for these kids,” says Chico.

The second major initiative is the construction of a new playground, the result of a school-wide, student-poll. The district is in the front-end design and fundraising stages for the fitness-oriented playground (“work your arms on the monkey bars then on to something else for leg strength”) that takes it cues from a Circuit Training model.

“My advice to other schools and school districts who want to become Live Well Allegheny outposts: Start. Then Build,” says Chico. “We’ve seen greater parental and student participation in after-school programs and activities and, really, a new spirit of community cooperation. It’s a beautiful thing.”

To Become Healthier, Use the Resources You Have

North Fayette Township Uses Existing Resources to Become a Live Well Community

Becoming healthy sounds like a large effort. You need time, you need money, and you need the energy to tackle the task and do more than you’re doing. Even just contemplating this feat often ends with the thought, “Why bother?” Everyone wants to be healthy, but not everyone has the resources to become so. North Fayette Township would beg to differ.

In November 2014, North Fayette became a Live Well community, a designation granted by Live Well Allegheny, a comprehensive, innovative strategy on wellness launched by Allegheny County Executive Richard Fitzgerald, and led by the Board of Health, and the Health Department Director Dr. Karen Hacker. The township didn’t start any additional health and wellness programming to become a member. They began simply by putting greater focus on some of the things they were already doing.

“The township has always focused on offering a wide variety of recreation programs to our residents, whether it’s water walking, wise walking or Silver Sneakers,” said supervisors’ Chairman James Morosetti, “which is why it was an easy decision to become part of the Live Well Allegheny campaign.”

To launch as a Live Well Allegheny community, you don’t need much. In fact you probably already have what you need. North Fayette had some existing programming organized by their recreation department. According to Sue Walls, the Live Well North Fayette coordinator, any community can join. “They’re already doing something. It’s just a matter of showcasing your resources.”

“Definitely, it would be nice to see all of the communities do it,” said Walls when talking about whether other communities should become Live Well communities. “Everybody has something to offer.”

Launching as a Live Well Community

Though November 16, 2014 was a colder day than many other Live Well Allegheny announcements, that did not discourage the attendance for North Fayette Township’s launch at the Brindle Pavilion in Donaldson Community Park. Attendees at the launch included Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Council Member Tom Baker, Deputy Director of the Allegheny County Health Department Dr. Roderick Harris, and North Fayette residents and elected and appointed officials.

Following the announcement was a township-sponsored, brisk 1.1 mile walk on a recently completed walking/running trail that encompasses the park. The Recreation Department handed out information on its programs available to residents of all ages. The Western Allegheny Community Library provided details on the Live Well display, which includes information, books, and resources on mind, body, and spirit wellness. Also present to provide support and information for this initiative were the North Fayette Police Department, the Pittsburgh Botanical Gardens and Mosaic Church.

The goal of the launch event is to inform local residents about the health and wellness resources that are available in their local community and to establish a platform from which more opportunities can be highlighted.

As Council Member Tom Baker reflected on the Live Well North Fayette launch event, he said, “My wife, Erin, and I believe that it is incredibly important for residents to consider the role of exercise and nutrition in their daily lives and North Fayette is making that easy for this community by making resources that focus on healthy living which exist in their township available to all ages.”

To plan a launch event, you need help from your local organizations. These are the people you already know and have probably already worked on a project or two with. Tell them what you are planning to do and ask how they might be able to help. You might be surprised by the offers you receive.

Walls spoke to the local library, which serves not only North Fayette, but also Findley and Oakdale. According to Walls, when they heard about her plans they decided to join in and designated an entire section of the library to health and wellness. In this section, they provide books and other information about all aspects of living well, including physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Walls also spoke with Lamar Advertising. The township had an existing relationship with Lamar, allowing them to set up an electronic billboard in their township next to the 376 interstate. Walls said because the township and Lamar have a history of working so well together, Lamar offered to let North Fayette use their billboard during gaps in advertising to promote Live Well North Fayette.

As Walls explains, “They’ve allowed us, when space is available, to use it at no cost. And they are very kind. They actually do the graphics for us as well. So they design it, they put it up. It may be up for only a few days. The Live Well launch was up for a few weeks. That was actually pretty nice. But I’ve seen it where they just take it up and down if they have space.”

Leading an Active Live Well Community

As the Marketing and Communications Coordinator for North Fayette Township and the coordinator of Live Well North Fayette, Sue Walls is the first to admit that time is her major challenge in starting and staying active as a Live Well Community.

“I’m the marketing person for the township and I work part-time,” says Walls. “So, unfortunately, because of everything else that needs to be done in the day or week, to do everything that I want to do, I have to plan in the long-term.”

In the meantime, while planning long-term, keeping your Live Well Community alive often just comes down to promotion. In comparison to other promotional efforts, Walls explained, “A lot of times you see something and you never hear it again,” Walls explained about many promotional efforts.

To keep North Fayette Township’s active as a Live Well community at the forefront for residents, she has committed to promoting often. She continues, “Any opportunity I can, I make sure that the name goes out and people are realizing [Live Well North Fayette] is ongoing.”


North Fayette relies heavily on their Facebook page to promote all health and wellness opportunities within their area. Walls explains, “We have a Facebook of over 1300 followers. If [Live Well Allegheny] sends anything such as a National Walk the Stairs day, I throw it up on the page. If somebody has a promotion that is new in the township, like the one pizza place offered $2 off salad on a certain day, I put it up in order to promote them and promote us and remind people [Live Well North Fayette] is still here.”

It’s funny how when you start to call attention to things you’ve already been doing, especially things like health and wellness activities that benefit everyone, how others will start to offer their support and assistance.

“Anyone that I talked to is interested [in being a part of Live Well North Fayette]. They want to join in,” says Sue Walls. “I’ve gone around to a few businesses and I also talk to some that see we’re promoting it and call me. It’s very well received.”

When others start to offer a helping hand, suddenly, things that you didn’t have the time or the resources for become possible.