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Organization aims for a healthy city

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Healthy Augusta, a new community initiative, is taking its first steps toward making the Augusta area a healthier place to live.

On April 23, the organization will launch Let's Walk Augusta, a health fair and community walk through Harrisburg.

"We want the event to demonstrate that walking, even 10 minutes per day, can make a difference," said Amanda McDougald, the organization's founder. She hopes the event will inspire others to organize regular community walks.

The idea of a healthy city movement is brand new to Augusta, but a similar organization already operates in Savannah. There, Healthy Savannah has promoted wellness since 2007 with educational campaigns, public policy initiatives and by building a communications network with other organizations.

McDougald, a research assistant for a childhood obesity study at Georgia Health Sciences University, said she's always been interested in applying her social psychology background to a larger community initiative.

For Healthy Augusta, McDougald worked with organizations whose interests overlap hers, such as the Boys and Girls Club, the Kroc Center, Richmond County schools and the city government.

McDougald hopes to focus on developing Harrisburg into a walking neighborhood, in concert with the Kroc Center's opening.

"The first thing we want to do there is improve public safety, with lights and sidewalks, so people feel like they can walk through the neighborhood," McDougald said.

Healthy Augusta has invited Richmond County students to participate in a contest to develop a logo. The deadline to enter is Feb 28. First prize is $100.

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