COPC Victories Abound!
COPC Victories Abound!
While the most recently-ended state legislative session did hit on a number of our issues, the end results did not directly impact on very many of our priorities. But as usual we had our sights set on other policy opportunities and would love to share some of these recent successes.
Water Bottle Stations Now in State Building Code
In late 2016 the Washington State Building Code Council finalized an important rules process regarding access to public water. For the very first time, water bottle filling stations were added to state building code. For those interested in the exact language go to the Washington Administrative Code, Chapter 51-50 2902.5.4. Part of our healthy beverage work at COPC includes advocating for improved access to public tap water. We know that water fountains alone may not be the best way to attract individuals, especially youth, to drink the healthiest and more affordable beverage on a regular basis. Water bottle filling stations, particularly those that are chilled and filtered, have emerged as an efficient, cleaner and fresher alternative to water fountains, while also providing an environmental solution to our proliferation of plastic water bottles.
As far as we know we are the first state to codify the notion of water bottle stations in a state building code. We did build upon local efforts in San Francisco, Santa Clara County (CA), and New York City.
State Parks Advertising Policy Includes Unhealthy Food and Beverages
The turn toward attracting advertising revenue comes at the direction of the Washington Legislature, which approved a business plan in 2014 to allow advertising and other revenue-generating measures in parks. While parks administration does not expect this level of advertising to be a big moneymaker they’re trying everything they can to offset declines in taxpayer funding from the state treasury. Late in 2015, Washington State Parks began placing ads on its website.
The first draft of the onsite advertising (literally on state parks land) appeared early in 2016 without any mention of unhealthy food and beverages. COPC successfully argued that it is imperative that the citizens of our state receive clear and consistent messages about the importance of healthy food and beverages. As public entities, state agencies should adhere to higher standards to ensure that their messages, intended or otherwise, do not undermine the multiple publicly-funded efforts in this state to achieve better health for all, especially our next generation. Policy 45-16-1 was amended to add unhealthy food and beverages to the list of potential prohibited advertising content, with a link to the state Department of Health’s work on food and beverage standards in support of Gov. Inslee’s Executive Order 13-06.
In late March the Commissioners showed their overall reluctance to open the advertising floodgates by deciding that onsite advertising will be “piloted” in five state parks in eastern Washington and five in western Washington and then be reevaluated by the parks commission before any additional program growth. We will share the final version of the policy when it becomes available.
Washington State Highly Ranked in Active Transportation National Poll
Washington State is in the top tier of scoring in this most recent national ranking, second only to California. The state report cards, compiled by the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, provide a snapshot of how supportive each state is of walking, bicycling, and physical activity for children and adults as of 2016. Four key areas drive the scoring: Complete Streets and Active Transportation, Safe Routes to School and Active Transportation Funding, Active Neighborhoods and Schools, and State Physical Activity Planning and Support. While this ranking is based upon last year’s intensive work to obtain sustainable funding for Safe Routes to School and Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety programs, it is great to see all that important work reflected in this national compilation.
While we don’t throw around the public health phrase “health in all policies” in the various policy environments that we work in, that phrase does nicely summarize much of our work. And of course a big thank you to all COPC member partners worked closely with us by responding to Alerts and giving technical support to all of these issues.