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Healthy Outlets for Low Income Neighborhoods

Build health clubs in low income communities so that low income people have outlets that build health, self-esteem and healthy choices

Photo of Cory Carlson
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Explain your idea

Until just recently I was a supervising Hennepin County Attorney in the Child Protection area. I had the opportunity to observe many, many families, most of whom were poor and economically disadvantaged, and mostly minority. When I was not working, I was working out at my health club that cost $200 per month, or riding my high end bike 30 miles to and from work. I cannot overstate the tremendous impact that regular exercise has had on my physical and mental health. When I go to my health club, there are always many people there all of whom can afford the expensive health club fees. Like me, they obviously believe that the benefits they get from regular exercise is worth the expense of membership. Many of the families I worked with in Child Protection were in poor health probably related to the stress of the constant economic deprivation, related to drug or alcohol abuse, or to untreated trauma. If regular exercise is so important to my ability to move positively in the world, why wouldn’t it be to these families. The problem is, however, that it is simply not available in their areas or affordable. My idea is that Rauenhorst Bridgebuilder Challenge could fund legitimate health clubs in low income neighborhoods that would be free of charge to local residents. Children’s access could be tied to regular school attendance if an incentive were needed. If people had access to regular exercise and a means to pursue health, they may experience less depression and be less prone to resort to self-defeating behaviors. They would become positive and healthy examples to their children. Such health clubs seem like the perfect design-build project for Rauenhorst, and North Minneapolis the perfect lab to try this out. Rural areas would also be important places for such projects. There are very few families, especially mothers, that I believe want to abuse or neglect their children. We need to provide the opportunities for them to experience healthy living that we value and are willing to pay premium prices for. The only other project that could have as great of impact as this is free, 0-5 child care.

Who Benefits?

Low income adults and children are direct beneficiaries. They will be choosing healthy activities rather than unhealthy lifestyles, and will be in a position to maximize their creative and productive potential as people. That is a huge difference compared to the hopelessness and unbroken cycle of poverty that is modeled in many families. The idea that anyone is not having the opportunity to live up to their potential is heartbreaking. And there are likely some Einstein's in the group. Society would be the indirect beneficiary by being the recipient of that realized creativity and productivity. That would also greatly reduce the amount of resources that are absorbed simply dealing with manifestations of deprivation and dysfunction, such as drug use, prisons, etc. It would be much more fulfilling as a society to be putting collective resources toward things that help people realize their potentials rather than institutions, such as prisons, that thrive on socio-pathology.

How is your idea unique?

No one, even the local governments, such as the City of Minneapolis, has realized the importance of physical and mental wellbeing to the our collective wellbeing. Instead, the level of social pathology has reached a level where all the available resources are being soaked up dealing with the manifestations of dysfunction. Bridgebuilders could provide a re-set and move things in a preventive and proactive direction that would improve lives and reduce the heavy investment in the criminal justice system and medical care for chronic conditions.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Research & Early Testing: I am exploring my idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Tell us more about you

I was a county attorney in Hennepin County for 30 years. Prior to that, my wife and I were in the Peace Corps in Papua New Guinea, where we taught agricultural alternatives to slash and burn farming, literacy, animal husbandry, bee-keeping and wool production, spinning and garment manufacture.

Expertise in sector

  • 1-2 years

Organization Filing Status

  • No, but we plan to register in the future.

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Cory!

Are there many exercise classes taking place in the local parks? What about meetup groups for fitness classes? Could you use existing community centres and churches to offer yoga classes?