This September, citizen advocates, non-profit organizations, foundations, businesses, and thought leaders from across the country convened in Baltimore, Md., to take part in the inaugural Playful City USA Leaders’ Summit, sponsored by the Humana Foundation. Over two days, these leaders discussed the policies and practices they incorporate to make their cities more playful places for kids, families, and communities to stay healthy and active together. One fun and unique innovation that emerged during the summit discussions was presented by Mayor Laurie Gill of Pierre, S.D., where the city has been working to install play pods along the local trail system.
One of the most alarming health problems facing the city of Pierre, South Dakota is childhood obesity; nearly two-thirds of children are either overweight or obese and similar trends can be observed in the city’s adult population. Identified as a food desert, the city has undertaken efforts to address the lack of access to fresh, healthy food by ensuring its availability in local markets and through encouraging a culture shift in local eating habits.
Recognized as a Playful City USA community since 2012, Pierre also values the role of play in fighting childhood obesity. To that end, the city is working to eliminate play deserts, so that children have access to the play opportunities they need to grow into healthy, happy, and productive adults.