Bill Peduto wants a fitter Pittsburgh ... and he's trying to lead by example | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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Bill Peduto wants a fitter Pittsburgh ... and he's trying to lead by example

"Having a mayor who is slugging around at 240 talking about fitness is disingenuous. And if I can do this, you can do it."

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Peduto's administration has taken on the issue by joining Allegheny County's new "Live Well" campaign, a countywide effort to address everything from neighborhood safety to smoking cessation. Pittsburgh's agenda begins with the city's own workforce, says Betty Cruz, who manages Live Well Pittsburgh from within the mayor's office.

Again, the idea is to set an example, she says: "If everyone yells at you about what your health habits should be, it's never as good as seeing people enjoy the benefits."

And if you can stop city employees from smoking, anything is possible: Cruz says early initiatives will include encouraging workers to take the stairs rather than use city hall's elevators — and she's already begun policing stairwells for illicit smokers. City employees are gearing up for a 10,000-steps-per-day walking challenge this month, and Cruz says the city plans to negotiate with vending-machine contractors to provide healthier fare at city facilities.

Broader policies are taking shape as well, especially around bicycling. Plans include a proposed bikes-only traffic lane Downtown, and using city information systems to track bike-accident data — part of an effort to make streets safer for cyclists.

Ultimately, says Cruz, "We're looking outside physical health to financial issues, access to affordable healthy foods, neighborhood safety." The administration won't just track data like air quality or trail usage, but indicators like "community involvement" and "transformed blight." Cruz acknowledges such criteria might be tough to quantify, but "If you just talk about physical health, or being active, it can be an elitist conversation. You aren't going to go for a jog in your neighborhood if you're worried you'll get shot."

There are already numerous local health initiatives. But to date, "what's clearly missing was the bigger overarching leadership," says Allegheny County Health Director Karen Hacker, who is in charge of the county's Live Well effort. This summer, Hacker says, the county plans to launch a website allowing residents to find wellness programs within their ZIP code. She's also urging school districts to track and report student health data, while incorporating healthier menus and regular exercise into the school day. But in addition to such efforts, Hacker says, "I think things like public figures stepping up and saying, ‘I lost 30 pounds' — those are actually really important."

Peduto's goal is actually to lose 50 pounds. And instead of ordering late-night pizzas, he now has a couple healthy meals prepared in advance each week by local chef Art Inzinga. Peduto plans to join city workers in the 10,000-step challenge, and his schedule once again includes weekly amateur hockey games. ("I want to get to the point where I'm not having 60-year-old guys skate around me.")

It seems to be working: Already, he says, the campaign-season "fat-guy suits" are back in the closet.

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