By making the healthy choice the easy choice, Clarinda is striving to ensure the city is a place people want to live for generations to come.
In June 2019, the Clarinda Chamber of Commerce spearheaded participation in the Healthy Hometown Initiative powered by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield. The program is intended to improve the livability of a community by inspiring residents to make healthy decisions in their day to day life.
“Clarinda has made the decision to encourage people to make healthy choices without them maybe even being aware of it,” Mary Lawyer of Wellmark said. “If we can make healthy choices almost the default choice, it makes all of us healthier.”
“Clarinda is not a good walk-ability or bike-ability city right now. By strengthening those areas I see some benefits to the health and welfare of our citizens,” McClarnon said. “It is also a good recruiting tool to attract younger families to Clarinda.”
McClarnon is one of 13 members on the original steering committee for the Healthy Hometown Initiative. Joining him on the committee are Chris Bergman, Clarinda Community School District; Danielle Briggs, Southwest Iowa Planning Council, Elissa Brockman, Reedesigns and Taylor Pharmacy; Jessica Erdman, Page County Public Health; Elaine Farwell, Clarinda Chamber of Commerce; Molly Gilmore, Clarinda Regional Health Center; Pam Herzberg, Clarinda Foundation; Andrew Hoppmann, Lied Public Library; Greg Jones, Clarinda Regional Health Center; Cassie McNees, Clarinda Chamber of Commerce; Brandy Powers, Page County Public Health; and Renee Riedel; Clarinda Economic Development Corporation.
“We have a good group on the committee. They are definitely interested in making Clarinda better,” McClarnon said. “The more diversity you have, the better because you have a wider range of ideas. It is really nice to get this group together and brainstorm. The group seems to do well together. There is some give and take that allows us to come together and make good decisions.”
“What Clarinda has been able to do is amazing. They have pulled together a coalition of community leaders to develop a plan driven to improve the health and wellbeing of the local residents,” Jon Werger of Wellmark said. “These are solid leaders with a number of choices on where to spend their time. Yet they are coming together, bringing their expertise and donating their time to care for Clarinda because they want it to be a thriving community.”
Along with his duties at the library, Hoppmann was already involved in various committees in Clarinda. Therefore, he said he was excited to join the Healthy Hometown Initiative because he saw it as a way to bring the various projects taking place in the city under a single umbrella and coordinate the efforts of the various groups represented on the committee.
“There are great things coming out of our meetings. We’re starting to see the benefits of getting these organizations and business leaders in the same room to see what issues need tackling. It has been a good way to spread knowledge,” Hoppmann said.
Meeting on the third Monday of each month, the committee had drafted a master plan for the initiative. The plan identified three main tactics to focus on throughout the community. Those tactics are Eat Well; Move More; and Feel Better.
Individual projects were then identified under each tactic. A champion, or project leader, was selected to lead the project.
The goal of the Eat Well Tactic was to enhance the availability of water in a variety of settings in the community. Gilmore more served as the champion for a project to install a water bottle refill station along the city trail at Clarinda City Park. The station has been installed and features a station for refilling water bottles, a water fountain and a pet fountain.
The Feel Better Tactic focuses on creating tobacco-free and nicotine-free environments at businesses in Clarinda. Powers is serving as the champion.
A total of three objectives were identified for Clarinda under the Move More Tactic. McClarnon was selected as the champion for a tactic to improve the opportunities to take walks or ride bicycles in the city.
“When you look at society, being healthy is what people are pushing for. To do that, our community needs to be more conducive to walking or riding a bike. We want to make it possible for people to ride their bike or walk everywhere,” McClarnon said.
Though the trail project already underway in Clarinda is helping in this area, McClarnon said more work is needed. As a result, a walking audit of a portion of Clarinda was held Oct. 22, 2019, to evaluate the condition of sidewalks and intersections in the city. McClarnon said 16 people participated in the audit including four students from Clarinda Middle School and a handicapped individual who utilizes an electric wheelchair.
“We started at the Lied Public Library and went south to Clark Street. That was where I really learned how poor our sidewalks are. Then we went around the square,” McClarnon said
The Clarinda City Council has already taken action to improve the sidewalks and intersections in the city. The council now requires the installation of sidewalks in the development of all new subdivisions. Property owners may also share the cost of installing a sidewalk with the city through a new matching program.
McClarnon said the city will also work toward installing Americans with Disabilities Act compliant ramps at all intersections in the city. The city will also focus on keeping crosswalks painted so they are highly visible.
“We are also taking a look at our bicycle parking inventory. We have some existing bike parking, but want to expand on that and have more. We have 30 sections of bicycle racks we can place in the community. We want to add to the existing racks at the schools and go from there, but that work has been placed on hold by the virus,” McClarnon said.
Improving the routes children can use to walk or ride their bicycles to school also falls in line with the tactic championed by Herzberg to implement a walking school bus in each quadrant of Clarinda. The walking bus routes would offer various stops where children could meet a chaperone who would accompany them to an actual bus stop or to school so they do not have to walk alone.
“The school district has placed an emphasis on helping young children get to school on foot or by bike. A lot of things have changed with the virus, but once things are back in order I know their goal is to tackle this so children can come to school other than by car,” Werger said.
Hoppmann is champion of the final tactic under Move More. His objective is to have facilities in Clarinda offer more fitness or health education workshops that increase attendance at existing programs or have new people try a class.
“Clarinda is one of our star examples for our Healthy Hometown Initiative. Jon keeps coming back telling us about their successes. We’re excited to watch what they’re doing,” Lawyer said.