Dear Mayor Taylor,
This letter is to thank all of the City of San Antonio governmental departments, staff workers, council representatives, and mayors who have supported initiatives and funding for advocating healthy and sustainable lives for our San Antonio community and citizens. I am proud to live in the near Eastside neighborhood of Denver Heights with a 15 minute walk to Downtown San Antonio. I am an architect, a Garden Steward of the Pittman Sullivan Community Garden, a regular attendee at the Dignowity Hill Farmer’s Market, and an appointed City Official.
I enjoy riding my bike, skateboarding to work, walking through the cemeteries and downtown, eating healthy foods and homegrown vegetables, and recently have begun to pay more attention to my diet by avoiding certain foods and drinks that are detrimental to my health. Because of this minor change in my lifestyle, I have lost 40 pounds in less than a year and have reduced by Body Mass Index from Obese (31) to Overweight (27) since my first reading at a Mobile Fit San Antonio Unit. I still have a way to go if I want to consider these calculable measurements such as BMI and weight as determining markers of my health.
I am proud to see San Antonio embrace bicycling, community gardening, farmer’s markets, health awareness and an influx in urban activities. We need to do more of these things.
While at several recent events, I saw the Mobile Fit San Antonio wagon poised at prime locations in City Parks with fitness experts eager to educate, evaluate, and promote health in ordinary citizens’ daily lives. I noticed these same citizens walk away from the wagon with a new awareness of their own personal measures of their health. It was simple, quick, and an effective way to provide knowledge and inspiration to the community to improve their health.
With San Antonio consistently topping the list of cities in our nation for obesity and diabetes, our City Government absolutely needs to lead the way in promoting a healthy lifestyle. I want to be writing this letter to congratulate the City departments, staff, and elected officials that have helped to promote and fund health and wellness in our City.
But then I noticed a very disparaging contradiction to everything that I just described above as a compliment to the policies and trends I see in my community. All of the sudden there were 15 foot tall upright banners emblazoned with Coca Cola logos promoting a sugary soft drink surrounding a van that is designed to help people achieve a healthier lifestyle.
If we are truly interested in promoting a healthy lifestyle and changing the way our community lives for the better, why are we allowing a sugary soft drink company to advertise a product that is detrimental to our health in the context of a health and fitness campaign funded by the City of San Antonio? Or is the real question, why are we allowing a for-profit company to advertise a sugary soft drink simply because they provided funding for a health and fitness campaign in our great City? I don’t know that they provided funding, but it certainly appears as such.
I believe in working as a community to change our lives for the better in many ways. One of these ways is through promoting a healthy and fit lifestyle. However, the City must stand true to its own initiatives and not allow a contradictory and shamefully exploitative advertisement to compromise the education that is being provided by this campaign. Can we tell people to reduce their weight, reduce their risk of diabetes and heart disease, and drink more sugary soda at the same time? I don’t believe that is a responsible message to our citizens and our youth especially coming from the City Government in the context of a health and fitness campaign.
Alan Neff, RA, LEED AP
*Featured/top image: Team VegOutSA! (From left) Jeff Skelton, Mayor's Fitness Council (MFC) member and Humana executive; Dr. López, MFC member and area president, Blue Cross Blue Shield Texas; Mayor Ivy Taylor; Kate Rogers, MFC chair and VP, H-E-B; Jennifer Herriott, assistant director, Metro Health; and Mary Ullmann Japhet, MFC past chair and SVP, San Antonio Sports. Photo by Robert Rivard.