This month, five Colorado communities – Littleton, Brush, Oak Creek, Bennett and Cortez – joined the HEAL Cities & Towns Campaign, pledging to promote healthy eating and active living (HEAL) policies. The campaign will support city leaders’ efforts to address both physical and fiscal health. 

According to the Denver Post, 58 percent of adult Colorado residents and 25 percent of children are obese or overweight. The state spent $1.637 billion in treating diseases and conditions related to obesity in 2009.

To combat the problem, the program will provide free training and support for community leaders to improve access to healthy foods, enable active lifestyles and encourage workplace wellness, according to project materials.

Cities involved in the program are expected to “lead by example,” according to the Denver Post. As part of the program, an eight-person committee, created by LiveWell Colorado and the Colorado Municipal League, will provide leadership in creating and implementing healthy municipal initiatives.

Littleton, which has already committed to an employee health-care clinic and expanded open space and trails, was the first town to join the HEAL Cities & Towns Campaign, according to the Denver Post.

As part of the program, Oak Creek has created a plan for pedestrian and cyclist trails through the city. The Denver Post reports Brush and Cortez are serving healthy food at city meetings and implementing employee wellness programs.

The program not only aims to slim down Colorado, but beef up budgets as well. Program materials cite studies showing a 3-to-1 return on investments in employee wellness programs. This means for every dollar invested in workplace wellness, there was an average savings of $3.

“Coloradans continue to face a health and economic crisis caused by obesity,” Maren Stewart, president and CEO of LiveWell Colorado, said in a statement. “To make the healthy choice the easy choice – and create lasting change – we must foster leadership at every level, including local municipalities. Now is an important time to continue to build momentum through collaborative programs like the HEAL Cities & Towns Campaign.”