October 4 is National Walk to School Day. As a tribute, our partner coalition in the Pasadena community organized a Walk to School Day at Richey Elementary to promote physical activity and healthy environments. This coalition, named Healthy Living Matters – Pasadena (HLM), has worked to advance policy, systems, and environmental change around healthy eating and active living. A focus of the active living component is Safe Routes to School. For over three years, Harris County Public Health (HCPH) and partners have created opportunities to increase the number of children walking and biking to school, including walkability/bike safety workshops, bike rack donations to schools and parks, and hosting Bike to School/Walk to School Day events. This assessment was done in partnership with the HCPH Built Environment Unit.
Air Alliance Houston has provided support and expertise to The Built Environment Unit (BE Unit) to address health impacts of community development and the physical environment. Community development is made up of buildings, roads, sidewalks, transit, parks, schools, work sites, and homes. Some of these progressive developments can affect human health by influencing rates of physical activity, fruit and vegetable consumption, and exposure to air pollution. Therefore, the design of communities play a key role in disease prevention, especially for chronic conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, and asthma.
Air Alliance Houston is working to reduce students’ exposure to harmful pollutants from diesel exhaust due to idling from cars and school buses. Exposure to diesel emissions increases the risk of developing chronic diseases, respiratory infections, asthma, and cancer. We want to evaluate the potential benefits from walking and biking to school by having reduced students’ exposure to pollution from diesel and cars’ exhaust. During the Walk to School Day, we implemented real time air sampling in the area around the school. This helps us to better understand the health impacts and pollution risks students are facing due to idling pollution from cars and school buses during school drop off/pick up hours. Our efforts during this events will bolster our efforts to advocate for an anti-idling ordinance in the City of Pasadena.
We are extremely happy with the turnout of the event and would like to thank Pasadena Independent District, Pasadena Police Department, the City of Pasadena, Council Members, and everyone involved. We hope to continue upholding healthy living in Pasadena.