Category Archives: Partner Spotlight

American Heart Association Greater Pittsburgh Region Emphasizes Heart Health during American Heart Month!

For many of us, February is a time to show love and gratitude to our friends and family. It is a month full of cupids, flowers, and candy hearts. But for organizations like Live Well Allegheny Community Partner, American Heart Association Greater Pittsburgh Region (AHA), February is a time to remind Americans about the importance of heart health.

February began as American Heart Month in 1963 when Congress officially recognized the need to focus national attention on heart health. The federally-designated event serves to celebrate the progress that has been made and focus on the work that must continue to reduce the deadly risks and consequences of cardiovascular disease, including stroke.

Promoting heart health is essential to improving overall health in our communities. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, resulting in 1-in-4 deaths each year. Recent changes to blood pressure guidelines emphasize the importance of heart health. In November, health officials published new guidelines for high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. A group of nine health organizations, including AHA, redefined the standard, lowering the guideline for high blood pressure from 140/90 to 130/80. The change in guidelines is meant to help people take steps to control their blood pressure earlier to avoid other health risks, such as heart disease.

Locally, AHA works to remind residents in the Greater Pittsburgh Region of the risks of cardiovascular diseases, and ways to reduce their risk. AHA provides people of all ages the tools they need to take control of their health. AHA works with corporate and community-based partners to implement programs in-and-around Allegheny County, especially in communities that have the greatest need for prevention, education, and health intervention. In partnership with community partners, AHA implements programs like Healthy BP for All and Challenge: BP.

Through Healthy BP for All, AHA works with 412 Food Rescue to provide heart healthy education and healthy cooking classes to 60 communities in Allegheny County. Additionally, AHA, in partnership with Live Well Allegheny, reaches communities through their Challenge: BP program. Challenge: BP encourages communities, organizations, and workplaces to take the challenge to help raise awareness and lower blood pressure of residents through evidence-based resources like Workplace Health Solutions and Check. Change. Control.

This February, AHA is using American Heart Month to emphasize the importance of maintaining a heart healthy lifestyle. Throughout the month, AHA is spreading awareness of cardiovascular disease and promoting prevention of such diseases by providing information about heart healthy activities. On February 2nd, AHA is encouraging people to wear red for National Wear Red Day, which takes place every year on the first Friday in February. National Wear Red Day raises awareness and supports women in the fight against heart disease. By increasing awareness, speaking out about heart disease, and empowering women to reduce their risk for cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, AHA saves thousands of lives each year.

Additionally, AHA and UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute are hosting a free health screening event in honor of National Wear Red Day. The event is being held on February 2nd from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at the U.S. Steel Tower, Concourse Level (600 Grant St., Pittsburgh, PA 15219). The event includes, blood pressure screening, cholesterol screening, glucose screening, heart health information, risk factor guidelines, heart-healthy recipes, and more! If you are concerned about your heart health, join AHA on February 2nd to take the first step in taking control of your health!

Family Support Centers take steps to make Allegheny County the healthiest county!

Did you know that there are 28 Family Support Centers (FSC) across Allegheny County that provide services to families with children under the age of six? We are proud to say that, with the help of the Family Support Center Network of Allegheny County, all 28 of the centers have taken steps to improve the health of the families they serve. We recognize those efforts as part of Live Well Allegheny. With the help of the FSC staff, we are continuing to make progress towards improving the overall health of county residents.

The improvements that the centers have made began in the winter of 2015. During the Family Support Retreat in late 2015, leadership decided to make health and wellness a priority. The Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) Collaboration Committee was created to make that priority a reality. The HEAL Committee, which includes representation from Family Support Centers, the Allegheny County Health Department, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, and the University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Child Development, provides ongoing technical support and encouragement to the Family Support Center Network.

Fast forward to 2017. To date, all 28 Family Support Centers have completed the Healthy Eating and Active Living assessment. The assessment results were used as a baseline measurement for achieving best practices in health and wellness. Using those baseline measurements, each center developed goals and action steps specific to that center. The goals and action steps, that all focus on making staff and families at the centers healthier, include initiatives like offering fruit-infused water instead of soda, and identifying the portion size of food served. The centers have also taken advantage of partnerships with local organizations, like 412 Food Rescue, to improve food security for families, and have utilized the programs of national organizations like Cooking Matters to offer cooking classes.

On December 8th, the Family Support Policy Board and Live Well Allegheny held a recognition ceremony honoring the Family Support Centers for the steps taken towards improving health. During the ceremony, all the centers were recognized for their efforts by Dr. Karen Hacker, Director of the Allegheny County Health Department. Each center received a certificate and a gift bag acknowledging the work in improving the health of the families served.

Live Well Allegheny recognizes the commitment and contribution that the Family Support Center Network has made to Live Well Allegheny and to improving health and wellness in Allegheny County. The steps that the Family Support Centers have taken cannot be overstated. These efforts demonstrate a commitment to families in making the healthy choice the easy choice. It is through partnerships like the one with the Family Support Center Network that we can make the biggest impact on health in our county. We commend the Family Support Center Network for its contributions to our goal of making Allegheny County the healthiest county, and we look forward to our ongoing partnership in improving the health of all residents!

Tips on safe travel during the holidays from the Traffic Safety Education Project!

The holiday season is here! For many of us, this time of year is filled with baking, decorating, and cleaning for holiday get-togethers. While it is a time for parties and celebrations, the holiday season can be busy and stressful. You can keep from adding to that stress by staying safe while traveling this season. For Allegheny County Health Department’s Traffic Safety Education Project, ensuring that drivers are prepared and knowledgeable about winter travel is a priority.

The goal of the Traffic Safety Education Project (TSEP) is to reduce local injuries and deaths due to avoidable vehicle crashes. TSEP staff utilize state-approved curriculum to provide educational programming on a variety of traffic safety topics, including car seat usage, aggressive and distracted driving, and seat belt safety. TSEP also offers educational programming for audiences ranging from elementary students to mature drivers.

For TSEP staff, ensuring that drivers understand how important it is to stay safe on the road during the holiday season and winter months is crucial. The holiday season is a major concern for those in the traffic safety field due to the high levels of travel during the winter holidays. While the number of cars on the road skyrocket during this time of the year, the temperature also plummets making road conditions hazardous. This is also commonly paired with drowsy driving, which creates a dangerous situation for both passengers and others on the road. Additionally, drunk driving becomes more of a concern during the holiday season due to holiday parties and celebrations.

Fortunately, our friends at TSEP have some tips and tricks for staying safe on the roads throughout the winter months. Remembering the basics of safe driving is a surefire way to stay safe. Utilizing a seat belt regardless of the distance, avoiding aggressive driving behaviors, and avoiding distracted driving will help maintain safety. In terms of driving in the winter months, TSEP staff recommend checking your tire tread to ensure that it is season appropriate, being aware of changing weather conditions, and keeping an emergency kit in your car. Last, but certainly not least, do not drive impaired. Use a designated and sober driver to get to and from your destination during the holidays, and all times of the year.

From everyone at Live Well Allegheny and TSEP we hope you have a fun and safe holiday season!

Live Well Allegheny, Tobacco Free Allegheny Celebrate Tobacco Cessation Week

November 10, 2017

PITTSBURGH – Live Well Allegheny, Tobacco Free Allegheny and supporting partners are joining together for the third annual Allegheny Quits for Life week in Allegheny County this November 12-18. The week is dedicated to promoting tobacco cessation and healthy activities.

“Smoking rates have been on the decline in Allegheny County; however, 19% of county residents smoke, and that number is still far too high,” said Dr. Karen Hacker, Director of the Health Department. “Decreasing smoking is a primary objective of our Live Well Allegheny campaign, and we strive to achieve that goal. For those who smoke, consider quitting this week. There are lots of options for cessation that can make all the difference for you and your loved ones.”

Allegheny Quits for Life will entail a week-long series of events and communications designed to support residents’ efforts to quit smoking. Its kickoff event will be “Merengue Monday,” presented in partnership with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, and the event will be held at Katz Plaza (7th and Penn Avenue) at noon on November 13. All events are aimed at helping individuals stop tobacco use and to learn to live healthier lifestyles. (In the event of inclement weather, the event will be moved to the Grand Staircase/Gallery in the Allegheny County Courthouse.)

Allegheny Quits for Life also coincides with the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, being held on Thursday, November 16, when smokers are encouraged to quit for the day. By quitting, even for just one day, smokers will be taking an important step towards a healthier life and reducing their cancer risk.

The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) encourages participants to share their messages about Allegheny Quits for Life on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram throughout the week, using the following hashtags: #WhyIQuit, #AlleghenyQuitsForLife and #HowDoYouLiveWell.

If you or someone you know wants free help to quit smoking, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). The PA Free Quitline offers personalized coaching sessions and free nicotine replacement therapy (patches, gum or lozenges), as available. Sign-ups can be done online at paquitlogix.org. In addition, local resources can be found on the Tobacco Free Allegheny website at: http://tobaccofreeallegheny.org/Where_to_get_help.asp.

More about Tobacco Free Allegheny

Tobacco Free Allegheny (TFA) was established on June 17, 2002 to administer and manage the comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation program in Allegheny County. TFA is a non-profit organization supported by the PA Department of Health and governed by a Board of Directors. The mission of TFA is to change the community norms surrounding tobacco use to make it uncommon to see, use or be negatively impacted by tobacco or tobacco smoke pollution (secondhand smoke). For more information, visit: www.tobaccofreeallegheny.org.

More about Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has helped to transform a downtrodden section of downtown into a world-class Cultural District that stands as a national model of urban revitalization through the arts. Touring Broadway, contemporary dance, family events, education and community engagement programs, and cutting-edge visual arts are among the variety of arts and entertainment the Trust presents and exhibits. Hundreds of artists, thousands of students, and millions of people expand their horizons in our theaters, galleries, and public art environments. For more information, visit https://trustarts.org/.

American Diabetes Association of Western PA hosts Pittsburgh Diabetes Expo!

Did you know that November is Diabetes Awareness Month? Throughout November, organizations are working to raise awareness of the risk factors associated with diabetes, as well as prevention and management tactics and tips for living with diabetes. Diabetes, like most chronic diseases, can be daunting. It is a disease that affects millions of Americans. In western PA alone, 400,000 people have been diagnosed with diabetes. Additionally, it is estimated that over one million western Pennsylvanians are at risk for developing diabetes in their lifetime. (Interested in learning more about your risk for diabetes? Take the American Diabetes Association’s risk test!) Although diabetes is so prevalent, for most of us, gathering and interpreting information about diabetes is confusing and overwhelming. Diabetes Awareness Month serves as a platform to highlight helpful information and provide clarity on the disease.

To provide a one stop shop for resources related to diabetes prevention and management, the American Diabetes Association of Western Pennsylvania, a Live Well Allegheny Community Partner, is hosting its annual Pittsburgh Diabetes Expo in November. The Expo is being held on November 4th at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh. The free event is an information hub for resources about diabetes, as well as general health and wellness. Topics range from healthy cooking recipes, to tips on living with diabetes, to alternative types of physical activity. Free health screenings will also be available during the Expo. To learn more about diabetes, be sure to come out on November 4th, to get some clarity and helpful tips from our friends at the Diabetes Association of Western PA!

Sharpsburg Passes Complete Streets Resolution

On July 25th Sharpsburg Borough, a Live Well Allegheny Community, passed a Complete Streets resolution.  A Complete Streets resolution indicates that the municipality will focus on building a healthy community by making its streets safer for all types of users including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and public transit users. More information on the effort can be found here: https://smartgrowthamerica.org/program/national-complete-streets-coalition/what-are-complete-streets/.

We talked to Councilwoman Brittany Reno about why Sharpsburg passed a Complete Streets resolution. She highlighted the fact that the community has many residents who rely on walking, cycling, and public transit to get where they need to go. Since Sharpsburg is beginning to experience more private and public investment, it is important to ensure that future development in the borough improves the overall quality of life and safety for all residents and visitors of Sharpsburg, not just motorists.

Sharpsburg has several upcoming projects that will be important to implementing Complete Streets in the borough, Councilwoman Reno said, including a redesign for the Main Street business district streetscape. With this project, they are critically considering accessibility, safety, pedestrian experience, and traffic flow improvements.

The councilwoman also told us that educating the community about Complete Streets has spurred positive dialogue between residents and business owners. Since most residents and business owners in Sharpsburg agree that creating safer streets for people of all ages and all methods of transportation is worthwhile, they have seen a lot of support and excitement around Complete Streets.

We are excited to see Sharpsburg’s commitment to this initiative and look forward to supporting this Live Well Community as they take their next steps to creating Complete Streets across the municipality.

Allegheny County’s DHS Hosts Biggest Loser Workplace Challenge

June 1, 2017

PITTSBURGH – Our most recent Live Well Allegheny story comes from a county department that has made the commitment to supporting the health of their employees. The Department of Human Services (DHS) is taking steps to create a culture of workplace wellness. Most recently, DHS employees have been participating in a 12-week Biggest Loser competition! Twenty-nine employees participated in Season 1 of DHS Biggest Loser, which took place between January 3rd and March 24th.  The participants collectively lost over 450 pounds (an average of sixteen pounds per participant), with four participants losing over thirty pounds each.

The top “loser” described his approach to shedding 49 pounds:

“Well, first I’ll say it is 100% mental. I started by finding out my recommended calorie intake per day.  There are many free websites for this.  I just Googled it and picked one. My recommended intake is around 2,100 calories per day. I try to stay at or below that each day. I also went from having minimal exercise throughout the week to doing an hour of cardio six days a week. I switch between the treadmill and the elliptical. I typically use it as an opportunity to catch up on sports, or watch a television show.”

In addition to being leaner, the participant also acknowledged being able to sleep better at night.

The program emphasizes the importance of healthy food choices and increased exercise. All participants are part of a private Office 365 group, where they can voluntarily share tips, recipes, and other resources and encouragement. In addition, the program seeks to foster a culture of wellness by sponsoring informational talks, tours of local gyms, and lunchtime walks. The opportunity to be part of this supportive community is one incentive to participate.

DHS Biggest Loser Season 2 began on April 18th.  Over 40 employees are now participating and looking to build upon the success of Season 1!

Please take a moment to watch this video featuring the stories of a few Season 1 participants: https://vimeo.com/209764088

If you’d like more information about the Biggest Loser competition at DHS, please contact Eddy Jones at edward.jones@alleghenycounty.us.

Go Out and Play for Healthy Communities

Wouldn’t it be great if there were one thing that could improve academic performance, decrease childhood obesity, spur creativity and innovation, invigorate local economies with investment, all while reducing stress and anxiety?  Would it surprise you to know that “play” has been linked to these benefits? While play alone may not be a silver bullet to addressing these concerns, it is certainly a vital component to healthy and engaged communities.

The Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative

The Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative is a group of committed individuals and organizations dedicated to advancing the importance of play in the lives of children, families and communities in the Pittsburgh region.

Beginning in 2013 through informal conversations about the value of play between leaders from Pittsburgh Association for The Education of Young Children (PAEYC), Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Carnegie Museum of Art, and Kids Plus Pediatrics, the Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative has grown from four founding members to include 22 member organizations in the Pittsburgh region.

Members of the collaborative work to advocate for play in each of our diverse fields. We come together to host play conversation events, present our city’s case for play at national conferences, raise awareness about play through community events, and demonstrate how play can be used as a catalyst for community development through projects like our work on the Greater Hazelwood Play Trail and Braddock’s Recycle Park.

Greater Hazelwood Play Trail

Through a multi-year process of community engagement and planning what Hazelwood may look like if it were the “neighborhood of play,” the Greater Hazelwood Play Trail is beginning to take shape. Linking together different playful areas in the neighborhood, the trail will serve as a reminder that play can happen anywhere.

In September 2016, a vacant lot turned playground at 5113 Lytle Street was the first in a series of sites along the greater Hazelwood Play Trail to receive an injection of creativity and play. With generous support from the Heinz Endowments, the Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative, PAEYC, and the Hazelwood Initiative partnered with KaBOOM! to bring together a group of over 160 volunteers to build a playground in a single day.

In coming months, the former site of the Elizabeth Street Playground, now a paved lot, will begin its transformation into a playful parklet featuring new gardens, public art, and space for community programing.

See Play in Action! Join us for Ultimate Play Day

This year, the 5th Annual Ultimate Play Day will be held on Sunday, April 30, 2017 from 1-4 pm in Allegheny Commons East Park in the Northside. Members from the Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative will bring a variety of activities that highlight the value and importance of play as an essential part of living well.

Attendees of all ages can begin to experience firsthand the benefits of play and will leave with ideas to encourage play in their own lives. The event is free and open to the public.

Keep Play in Mind

Everyone can benefit from dedicating a small part of each day to play! Visit the website to learn more and stay connected through the e-newsletter at www.playfulpgh.org.

For more information about the Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative, contact Teresa Pizzella at tpizzella@paeyc.org.

How Two Local Organizations Are Reshaping Pittsburgh’s Employee Health

PITTSBURGH — The last time you went to one of the many YMCA locations in Allegheny County, you may have seen something in the window indicating that they are a Live Well Allegheny Workplace. It’s a simple window cling, but it symbolizes the YMCA’s dedication to the health and well-being of both its employees and community. In partnership with Live Well Allegheny, the YMCA has improved employee health and even saved a person’s life.

The Associate Vice President of Healthy Living, Gretchen North, and Shannon Vargesko, the Y’s HR Coordinator and Healthy Living Assistant Project Coordinator reflected on their long-time partnership with Live Well Allegheny. “It just made sense…the YMCA is known for healthy living and social responsibility,” said North when asked about the partnership with Live Well Allegheny. This inspired the Y to put their mission first and “walk the walk” for their employees and community at large. On September 6, 2016, the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh became the fourth worksite to be designated as a Live Well Allegheny Workplace.

The YMCA has been making the health and well-being of its employees and the community a priority for a long time. It’s their mission. The message the organization sends to its employees is that they are invested in them as well as our community. This is what brought them to partner with the Live Well Allegheny campaign.

According to Vargesko, the YMCA has made several changes, big and small, to its approach to employee health. From healthier choices in vending machines to full campaigns encouraging healthier living, our county’s Y has made real changes worthy of replicating. Vargesko mentioned several healthy campaigns for employees, including the “Renew, Restore, Re-You” campaign. The program asked employees to pick a relaxing activity they normally do not participate in and do it once a week. One employee reported having reuniting with a friend she had not spoken to in over ten years because she chose to reconnect with former friends as her activity. Vargesko said it “increased [employee] morale, but also their joy in this hustle and bustle society.”

While the Y’s employee health campaigns are working, it’s reasonable to ask how an organization with fewer resources could weave Live Well Allegheny’s values into their workplace. North had a possible idea. “We’re fortunate to already have exercise equipment and trainers and dieticians,” North said, “but being an employer who wants to invest in its employees’ health can be much simpler.” The YMCA offers bi-annual health screenings and CO2 monitoring for free. North reported that through these routine procedures an employee and lifetime non-smoker found she had dangerously low levels of carbon dioxide. She was then able to get medical help, which led to open heart surgery. That simple, free screening, offered by her employer, saved her life.

Allegheny County’s YMCA and their partnership with Live Well Allegheny shows how a workplace can care and invest in their employees’ health. Ultimately, improving employee health aids in improving community health. Employees are people with families and friends, who may notice how much less stressed they are. Vargesko reports, “less stress, clarity,” are many of the terms used by employees in post-campaign surveys.

Live Well Allegheny’s main goal is to improve the overall health of its citizens and, ultimately, become the healthiest county in the United States. This is a lofty goal, and only possible with collaboration, including communities, workplaces, restaurants and schools. Live Well Allegheny hopes to provide support for these partnerships. Something as simple as having that window cling has “helped our reputation…and serves as a reminder to employees and community members that health is a priority,” said North. The YMCA is a great example of how a Live Well Allegheny Workplace can invest in employee health in simple, but effective ways.

Bringing Together Community Partners to Build a Culture of Health

February 2, 2017

PITTSBURGH – On January 10, 2017, we kicked off the Live Well Learning Collaborative with an in-person meeting that was open to all Live Well Allegheny members and partners. The Live Well Learning Collaborative convenes participants and share the what, where, why, and how of implementing health initiatives. Eighty-five participants representing 47 different Live Well Allegheny partners attended. The purpose was first to discuss Health in All Policies and how to apply it to different organizations, to showcase Live Well Allegheny partner initiatives and to encourage participants to identify future action steps for their organizations.

There were three different sessions during the Learning Collaborative meeting. During Session # 1, attendees engaged in a presentation from the Health Department Director Dr. Karen Hacker and staff members about using a Health in All Policies approach to their organization.  They also heard from Chris “Steel” Edmonds from the Athletic Trauma Unit about his journey to health as a former NFL player.

In Session # 2, participants had an opportunity to learn from other Live Well Allegheny members that have collaborated to successfully implement health initiatives. Lastly, participants had an opportunity to think about the future of Live Well Allegheny in Session # 3. Working in small groups, participants completed activities to provide feedback about priorities for the Learning Collaborative and brainstorm new ways to reach our goal of becoming the healthiest county in the United States.

The Learning Collaborative will build capacity for Live Well Allegheny members by providing information at upcoming events, webinars, and newsletters. To learn more about the event, please check out the page on our website.

Interested in hosting a Live Well Learning Collaborative workshop in the future? Please contact Erica Bryson at erica.bryson@alleghenycounty.us or (412) 247-7964.