S.T.E.P.S. Kicks Off in Harvard Park

Updated:Oct 16,2017

In an effort improve the heart health of all Americans, the American Heart Association (AHA) looks for ways to inspire people to live healthy lives where they work, live and play. In the fall of 2016, AHA CEO Nancy Brown issued the “Culture of Health Community Innovation Challenge,” a call for a replicable initiative that could be a catalyst for improving health in local communities.

The Community S.T.E.P.S. program (Strategic Dialogue That’s Empowered by Public Safety) was selected from over 110 submissions and awarded $100,000 toward its implementation. The brainchild of Western States Affiliate Vice President of Advocacy Eric Batch, S.T.E.P.S. brings law enforcement and the community together by taking regular walks to get to know one another and build relationships.

“The STEPS program goes right to the intersection of ’Community and Health’ and allows the AHA to play a role in building communities around health and wellness. One of the best things that we (as the American Heart Association) have to offer is our message of being physically active, and STEPS does this by bringing the police and community together. This program has enormous potential and we are already seeing some very positive early results,” Eric says.

After almost a year of collaboration between the AHA, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Department of Recreation and Parks and the Urban League, S.T.E.P.S. celebrated its kickoff in Los Angeles’ Jackie Tatum/Harvard Park on September 9.

Over 700 local community members joined officers in activities that included a 40-yard dash competition, a tennis clinic and a basketball skills competition. Free health screenings, including blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index, were available to attendees. Small trees and shrubs were offered to participants to take and plant at home. The “Adopt a Cop” tent allowed people to interview their neighborhood police officers and get to know them on a much more personal level.

“We want the people in our community to know two things; the police are here to help them and that they can feel safe with us,” says Joe Marrone, a local police officer who spent the last year helping plan the event.

The “Drummers With Attitude” drum squad led the inaugural S.T.E.P.S. walk around the park.  Subsequent walks, sans the drum squad, will take place biweekly, at 9 a.m. on Saturdays.