Some SAGE advice on how to create a healthier community

FLINT, Michigan—There’s a movement afoot in the Vehicle City.
 
Yes, Flint is historically associated with cars. Perhaps not coincidentally, the city also historically ranks among the state’s least healthy with especially high rates of obesity and other risk factors. 
 
It is our community’s past and present—but some groups are working to create a different future—including the group Safe and Active Genesee for Everyone, usually called simply SAGE, which is operated through the Crim Fitness Foundation. 
 
“You can’t change the way people get healthy unless you incorporate it into their daily lives," said Cade Surface, who works with SAGE as a coordinator for Safe Routes to School, also a program of the Crim Fitness Foundation. “The basic idea is to get folks in the city to embrace what is termed ‘active living,’ or having a community that is designed, programmed and drafts policy that aides in making healthy choices easier and more accessible.
 
"That is what SAGE is all about.”
 
SAGE works actively in the community with a hyper-focus on addressing needs block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood and creating opportunities for active lifestyles by ensuring proper infrastructure including sidewalks, bike lanes, even grocery stores located near residential areas. 
 
So far, SAGE has successfully participated in the city’s master planning process, championed the placement of bike racks, and continues to advocate for street design that allows for safe transit for pedestrians, bicyclists, and handicapped individuals. 
 
Growing culture and community around active living is a challenge for a city the size of Flint with many needs beyond sidewalks—but the impact goes further than looking for commuting options, said Theresa Roach, communications and outreach Manager for the Crim Fitness Foundation. 
 
By improving parks, trails, and lighting, SAGE’s work is critical to develop safe neighborhoods and building healthy lifestyles, she said.

“The feedback is overwhelmingly positive,” Roach said. “Folks want to bike, eat healthy, or walk to the playground with their kids. The issue is one of access and many cases, people don’t feel safe—for members of SAGE that’s an opportunity for us to make a difference at the policy level.”
 
SAGE’s work helped Angela Stamps get started. Stamps, also known as The Bike Lady, runs multiple bicycle safety clubs and programs on the northside of Flint and in cooperation with Genesee County Parks. Those relationships just wouldn’t exist without SAGE, Stamps said. 
 
“When trying to find solutions to problems that face a community, problem solvers should represent the full range of people they serve,” Stamps said. “The SAGE coalition is a good representation of this concept.”
 
Flint resident Jane Richardson said she appreciates the breadth of programming impacting the neighborhoods. Her personal favorite is Crim’s mindfulness program, which teaches meditation. 
 
“As we have become more aware of how physical activity makes a difference in our lives and how good nutrition will play a role in getting over the effects of the water hazards, SAGE offers that really important role in making sure all ages are involved (and) working toward being healthier,” Richardson said.
 
SAGE is helping to create a common language and purpose through all of the city’s neighborhoods—and Richardson said that bridge between the neighborhoods is so helpful. 
 
“If we want to solve issues we face, we need each other. We need everyone in Flint working together. That means (working) across lines of age, race and class—and that’s healthy too,” she smiled. “Working together can be very healthy.”
 
SAGE hosts weekly events including bike rides and meetups. For more information, visit www.crim.org/sage.
 
 

Read more articles by Jake Carah.

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