Note: This guest blog was written by Papa Joe Aviance, volunteer with the American Heart Association (AHA) and a lifestyle change ambassador for the AHA in Los Angeles.
Papa Joe became involved with the AHA after he lost 250 lbs. largely by walking and changing his eating habits. He speaks at community events, inspiring people to follow a path to health.
As an American Heart Association (AHA) volunteer and a member of the Los Angeles County community, I was delighted to hear the news that voters passed Measure M.
The AHA endorsed Measure M because it will help improve the health of Los Angeles County residents by making it easier and safer to be active. Measure M is a comprehensive transportation improvement plan that will invest significant funds to create more sidewalks and bike lanes, establish safe routes to schools and improve the transportation infrastructure in the county.
As someone who has experienced the benefits of walking to improve my health, I appreciate Measure M’s goal to upgrade LA County’s transportation and mobility options to create a culture of health in our community.
If you saw me six years ago, you wouldn’t recognize me. Back then I weighed 450 lbs. – the heaviest and unhealthiest I’ve ever been. I realized I had to do something and found walking to be the easiest way to start my health journey.
I was lucky because I lived in a neighborhood with sidewalks where I felt safe to walk. Sadly, that is not the case for many Angelenos.
With the passage of Measure M, for the first time ever, Los Angeles County transportation budgets will include funding specifically for sidewalks and bike safety, not just for a few select communities. All cities will benefit and have the ability to make it safer for their residents to share the road with motorists.
Studies have shown that people who live in walkable neighborhoods generally get more physical activity each week and have a lower risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers than those who live in neighborhoods that are less walkable.
Nearly 80 percent of U.S. adults and 75 percent of adolescents do not currently get the recommended amount of physical activity each week. Studies show that more and better quality sidewalks are associated with higher rates of walking and more adults meeting their daily physical activity recommendations.
When our community has safe routes to schools, secure roads, protected bike lanes and access to parks and sidewalks, residents are encouraged to walk and bike more.
People of all ages and abilities should be able to move safely and conveniently where they live, work, go to school, and play. We need roads that can accommodate everyone, whether you use a wheelchair, ride a bike, bus or train, or drive a car. The passage of Measure M will bring much needed resources to make it happen in LA County in the near future.