Last week, more than 500 advocates gathered at the 2015 National Walking Summit in Washington D.C. Designed to inform, empower and engage advocates in their efforts to make America’s communities walkable, this summit offered inspiring sessions and a bounty of Netwalks and walking platforms for on-the-move learning. Powerful stories were shared by participants about ways to step up investment and activity across communities so that all Americans have safe places to walk. Here’s some highlights in case you missed it:
Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Heart Association led a panel on How to Bring Resources and Support to the Active Living Movement. PreventObesity.net Leaders, Tim Vaske, Rachel Callanan, Isabelle Gerard, Beth Richards, and Marla Hollander, shared resources on how to develop and deliver effective Active Living messages and winning advocacy approaches, as well as drill down the elements of successful active living campaigns, highlighting recent victorious Minnesota efforts. During the hands-on component of the session, participants developed a campaign strategy and next step efforts to bring back to their own communities.
The Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, asked advocates to join his Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities to make safe walkable communities the norm and not the exception. The surgeon general’s report indicates that 22 minutes of walking for adults can have a dramatic impact on health. The report also highlights that children and adolescents need to be active for at least 60 minutes every day. And while 22 minutes of walking might not seem like much, fewer than half the country’s adults currently get enough exercise, and among high school students, the number drops to about 25 percent.
Dr. Robert Bullard, Dean of the School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas, is often described as the father of environmental justice and encouraged participants to think about walking as a human right. He highlighted that the health disparities we are experiencing have not happened by accident. He shared a litany of data highlighting inequity over the decades, but one recent piece looking at racial bias in transportation stood out. A recent pilot study conducted by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities noted that black pedestrians had to wait on average 30% longer than their white counterparts for drivers to yield at a cross walk. Dr. Bullard encouraged the hundreds of advocates at the Summit to join “the marathon” by working together to address the historical inequities and change the tides so that the pedestrian and health experience of communities of color are equitable and aligned with the rest of the nation.
Scott Bricker, Executive Director of America Walks and a PreventObesity.Net Leader, shared, “We are seeing a growing call for walkable communities across America, from millennials to aging adults. It’s crucial that government at all levels provide the funding, infrastructure and other services needed to answer this call to ensure that all people can walk safely and conveniently."
Forging alliances across traditional and non-traditional partners was a big theme. Several sessions highlighted the benefits of such partnerships, but none as powerful as having the Surgeon General and the Dr. Mark Rosekind, Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (DOT) sharing the podium as they highlighted important cross-agency discussions at the Federal, state, and community levels. Dr. Rosekind highlighted that walking is an important nexus between mobility and health and that everyone is a pedestrian. Highlighting among other things the Transportation and Health Tool (THT), developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide easy access to data that practitioners can use to examine the health impacts of transportation systems.
What can you do today?
View the just released Step It Up video and contribute to the Call to Action. Don’t forget to use #StepItUp.
Share your stories of the walking movement.
Support Active Meetings in your organization and explore the NetWalking website.
Check out the Voices for Healthy Kids toolkit on Complete Streets: Streets Built To Share and Safe Routes to School: Look Both Ways.
Connect with an active places campaign today.