For decades, San Antonio has been ranked among the most unhealthy cities in America across a number of criteria. But since taking office in June 2017, Mayor Ron Nirenberg has made it his mission to turn that reputation around. As an avid weightlifter and fitness enthusiast, Nirenberg places health and fitness at the forefront of his policy-making decisions, which is paving the way for San Antonio to climb the rankings of the nation’s healthiest cities.
As San Antonio’s mayor, Nirenberg is a role model for his community, as he makes healthy nutritional choices, exercises daily and encourages others to do the same. He believes in creating unity of the body, mind and spirit through physical activity, and he implements those beliefs through his Fitness Council, which aims to increase health awareness and connect the city’s residents to opportunities for improved emotional well-being, physical activity, and healthy eating. It’s a platform he is very passionate about, as evidenced by his actions with the City Health Initiative.
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At our re-election campaign kickoff, I reinforced a promise I made 2 years ago: “To make San Antonio The City You Deserve. What is it? A city you can be proud of. A place you would choose even if you could live anywhere else on Earth. A city that listens to you and treats you fairly. A city of compassion. And a city for all.” #VoteRon2019 #TeamRon #BuildingTheCityYouDeserve
Under the guidance of health commissioner Dr. Colleen Bridger, Nirenberg’s City Health Initiative has raised the tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21 years old, built more sidewalks to increase the opportunity for walking, increased the opportunity for public transportation and biking, and expanded access to healthier food choices. For Nirenberg, it’s all about making healthy choices convenient for the city’s residents.
“We are building a better city and we are connecting fitness opportunities with our infrastructure with things like park development, creek ways, and pedestrian access to hiking and bike trails,” Nirenberg said. “We are learning how to build our city to where people can exercise and have a healthier, more active lifestyle.”
Nirenberg’s efforts were nationally recognized by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation last September, when San Antonio was named a winner of the 2018 RWJF Culture of Health Prize, which honors communities for their unwavering efforts to ensure all residents have the opportunity to live healthier lives.
Over the next couple of years, Nirenberg hopes that creating a healthier city will not only benefit San Antonio’s reputation on a national level, but also help reduce the financial burden on its citizens.
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“The truth of the matter is it costs us a lot of money annually to have poor health,” he said. “It costs us when areas of our city are left in a cycle of generational poverty. The money that we’re investing and the balance that we create in terms of public policy geared toward improving health is benefiting people in the long run. At the end of the day, we have to rely on the community’s vision of better health and our mission as public officials to provide it.”
As he runs for re-election in May, Mayor Nirenberg hopes that community members in San Antonio realize the meaning of his commitment to raising the health profile of their city. He promises to build a stronger, fitter and healthier city, and he hopes to establish San Antonio as a destination for people to call home.
“My vision for San Antonio is to be the city of choice for anyone,” he said. “I want it to be a place that even if you could live anywhere else in the world, and many people can, they would choose San Antonio.”