Stronger Austin to help underserved neighborhoods be healthier

Austin often gets put on “fittest cities” lists, but that’s not true for all of Austin, says Baker Harrell, lead of the Stronger Austin initiative and founder and CEO of It’s Time Texas, a nonprofit organization aimed at making Texas a healthier place to live. “The underserved neighborhoods are among the least healthy communities in the state,” he says.

Stronger Austin will increase the number of fitness offerings as well as let communities know about existing opportunities like this hoops challenge at Turner Roberts Recreation Center. Deborah Cannon/American-Statesman

Stronger Austin is a private, public partnership launching Saturday with the goal of shining a light on the disparities between neighborhoods that would earn the “fittest city” designation and neighborhoods that would not.

Stronger Austin Day on Saturday at Turner Roberts Recreation Center will include field activities, a Zumba class, health screenings, boot camp, a cooking demonstration, a three-on-three basketball tournament, and a community walk.

Working with neighborhoods in ZIP codes 78724, 78741, 78744, 78745, 78752 and 78753, Stronger Austin is a collaboration between It’s Time Texas, Austin Parks and Recreation Department, the Austin Public Health Department, My Brother’s Keeper Austin, and the University of Texas School of Public Health, Austin Regional Campus, Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living.

The initiative will spend $250,000 this first year to provide more classes on fitness, nutrition and cooking for all age groups and fitness levels as well as create fitness groups. It will both create new opportunities as well as make the neighborhoods more aware of existing programs.

Stronger Austin will work with schools to offer more after-school activities. American-Statesman 2009

One of the first things will be to increase the number of It’s Time Texas after-school Teach Healthier classes in schools. All of the classes should be accessible to a neighborhood by walking, which is why Stronger Austin is putting its programs in schools, churches, parks and recreation centers.

The goal is to “help them to improve their health behaviors and improve their health outcomes,” Harrell says. UT School of Public Health will measure things like participation and level of satisfaction at first and then do more comprehensive monitoring of behavior changes and physical changes in participants.

“We are collectively committed to this long-term,” Harrell says. “This is not a short term intervention.”

The goal is to make Austin a community where health is important for everyone, Harrell says. Just like we keep Austin weird, he says, we want to keep Austin healthy.

Stronger Austin Day

When: 10 a.m. to Noon Saturday

Where: Turner Roberts Recreation Center, 7201 Colony Loop Drive

Cost: Free

Information: strongeraustin.org