B-Well: City of Buffalo Wellness Program
Shifting any Community’s culture to one that supports regular physical activity and provides a more walkable environment is an exciting and real civic challenge. Add in the elements of four very distinct weather seasons and you have an authentic test of community creativity and persistence. Impacting citizen regular physical activity at all life stages was one of the tall orders faced by the City of Buffalo New York’s “B-Well” Program and its’ many partners. Founded in 1989 and managed for the City by the non-profit Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo, “B-Well” made its’ first strategic decision to improve regular physical activity in the City’s older adult population. Successfully launching, in the Spring of 1992, the City’s first ever “Golden Years” Wellness Walk in the Park (Buffalo is blessed with a fabulous Olmsted park system) started the expansion of the walking program. The initial Spring walk was expanded to a full series of Fall park walks (with their beautiful colors!) and into a Winter season of indoor walks in area malls and back into our County Parks the following Spring. Years later, with the growth of the City’s Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, we added the dimension of noontime Summer guided walks for employees and visitors to the Medical Campus. By 2007, “B-Well”s first humble Golden Years walk had turned into a year-round “Be Active” series of walks featuring multiple partners and opportunities for persons of all ages to gain the benefits of regular physical activity through its’ most popular (and least expensive) form : WALKING! But wait – our journey does not end there, as we added the Walk Your Children to School initiative to our menu. A City Bike/Pedestrian Committee was formed, Complete Streets legislation was passed and in 2014 a “metric” was added by counting the steps taken by the participants in the 50+ walks. “B-Well” and the Wellness Institute coordinates with their partners in the “City of Good Neighbors” and the County of Erie, New York. Leading the way to 10 Million Plus steps counted in 2014 was Wellness Institute Affiliate Explore Buffalo, which provides the Community with wonderful “walking” tours of Buffalo’s outstanding architecture and history. For 2015, “B-Well” and the Wellness Institute has set a Community goal of 15 million steps. In addition to the Be Active walks, local runs and walks have been invited to add their steps into the 15 million goal. With all our partners and improving environmental support, (including those branding Buffalo, New York as the best designed city in America), we are confident that our Vision of more physical activity and a more walkable city is in the process of achievement.