In early 2013, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Vice Mayor Daniel Valenzuela created a city-wide healthy living initiative after an audit of the city’s offerings revealed hundreds of well-intentioned but underutilized wellness-focused programs.
The initiative, FitPHX, works with the Parks and Recreation Department and liaisons from 16 city departments and community partners to increase awareness of city programs encouraging residents to lead healthier lifestyles. FitPHX focuses on childhood and adult obesity, nutrition education, walking, bicycling, public transportation and healthy worksites.
“You may be shocked to learn that prior to FitPHX, the city had nearly 300 programs encouraging people to live healthier, safer lives,” Valenzuela said to an audience of more than 100 during the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce’s Sept. 29 Wellness in the Workplace event at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel. “There is everything from firefighters teaching people to put car seats in vehicles to water aerobics programs for seniors. But no one knew.”
After hatching the idea for the program, the next step was to attract residents’ attention. Valenzuela said he and Stanton decided they wanted someone other than themselves to really sell the value of healthy lifestyles and the FitPHX program.
“We then needed a cool factor. And I think everyone here has met Greg Stanton, and everyone will agree he’s not that. And he said the same thing about me,” Valenzuela said to chuckles from the audience. “And so we thought, what about our very own Phoenician, Olympic gold medal swimmer Misty Hyman?”
Hyman, whose victory in the women’s 200-meter butterfly during the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney is considered one of the greatest upsets of all-time, agreed to be the face and voice of the program.
“She has been more than just a spokesperson, she has been a leader for this program,” Valenzuela said.
One way FitPHX encourages residents to get outdoors and moving, interact with each other and support local businesses – the backbone of the state’s economy – is through the weekly, free Meet Me Downtown Phoenix 5K walk/run.
“We hit some of the parks downtown and there’s always something happening there, maybe it’s live music, and you get to another and they’re doing Zumba,” Valenzuela said. “It really exposes people to the vibrant downtown scene that we are creating. It’s even better because we found a way to tie in local businesses.”
Participants in the Meet Me Downtown Phoenix event get a hand stamp entitling them to discounted food and drink and other perks from participating downtown businesses after the event.
Valenzuela closed his remarks by thanking Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, who has been a strong, vital supporter from the beginning.
“There would not be a Meet Me Downtown Phoenix without Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona coming to the table with such a generous sponsorship,” Valenzuela said.
FitPHX is a Phoenix citywide healthy-living initiative led by Mayor Greg Stanton, Councilman Daniel Valenzuela and Olympic Gold Medalist Misty Hyman. The goal is to create programs and utilize existing resources to improve health and wellness in the region and make the Phoenix area one of the healthiest in the nation. To learn more about FitPHX, visit https://www.phoenix.gov/parks/fitphx. To register for the next Meet Me Downtown Phoenix 5K walk/run, visit http://www.meetmedowntownphx.com/
-Written by Josh Coddington marketing and communications manager for the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.