To All Health Advocates of Maryland: Is Anyone Paying Attention?

Every year the statistics come out – the healthiest cities in the U.S. or around the world, or the best workout states in America. Well I don’t think they’re doing this assessment properly. Or maybe I should say they need to find better ways of exploring and sharing health information. The “top 10 healthiest places to live” always consist of those ritzy coastal cities that consist of folks with high paying jobs who can afford to get massages every other day. Well I live on the east coast (yes, my city has been listed in the top 10) and those surveys give me no insight as to what fitness has done for my area. It’s being overlooked! For instance, in Maryland, there are many cities right outside of DC that are considered to be healthy places such as Bethesda, Silver Spring, Potomac – pretty much anywhere in Montgomery County. But Maryland is a huge state with other counties, where is the information for these other places? Prince Georges County is another popular area in terms of diversity and activity near the DC area. Yes, I know Prince Georges County is notorious for all the wrong reasons such as crime and poverty. It’s been that way for years. But over the past decade, there have been significant changes in the county that are not being highlighted enough. These changes have been for the better and continue to occur with no one saying anything about it.

Woodrow Wilson Bridge Trail

Woodrow Wilson Bridge Trail

Being a native of Maryland I grew up seeing a good variety of diversity and perspective towards health. But carry-outs and a good share of crime were prevalent in the area I lived in. With the exception of recreational centers, there were no gyms or real places to buy healthy food.  For the most part, health and fitness was not a concern of anyone. People just did what they wanted to do as all the negative statistics continued to rise in disease, poverty and crime. When I go back and visit these places as an adult, I barely recognize the neighborhoods. Not only have they changed for the better in physical appearance, people have taken on new attitudes towards their health. For the first time, I’m seeing the locals being serious about going to the gym, taking strolls around the neighborhood, and supporting local health food establishments (apart from the numerous colon cleanse products!). For example, the Woodrow Wilson Bridge is 4 miles distance both ways. People flock to walk this bridge every weekend. Kids, moms, entire families take to running/walking the 4 miles. Some of them go for seconds or thirds without missing a beat. It’s a big deal because it wasn’t like that before. Before they reconstructed the bridge, there were numerous parks all around the area, but they were mostly used for barbequing and hanging out. Now the parks and the bridge are being taken seriously as a way to work out. Another observation that floored me was gym membership. One of the recreational centers in Fort Washington recently opened offering a vast variety of fitness classes, rock climbing and swim lessons. At the beginning of the year the place was packed – from the machines to the studios. Months later into the year the place is still packed, unlike the regular decline shortly after the new year that we’re used to seeing. People of the county are dedicated and serious about their health.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/99633097@N07/

Residents working it out in zumba class.
(Southern Regional Technology Complex in Fort Washington, MD)

So where’s the coverage? Especially since Prince Georges is always in a negative light. There is some positivity going on that needs to be highlighted; there’s development on the horizon that pertains to economic development, increase of real estate and an interest in fitness. It’s good to encourage the positive in people as they strive to make a difference in their lives. This type of positive attitude can have an overall effect on the area and improve the quality of life for Prince Georges.

What are your thoughts?

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