- 1. Broken Kitchen Fryers Put New York School District on the Road to Health
- 2. Washington, D.C., Schools Provide Nutritious Meals After School
- 3. San Fernando, Calif., Puts Pedestrians First
- 4. Residents Leave Their Cars Behind in Oxford, Miss.
- 5. Urbana, Ill., School Makes it Possible for Children to Walk and Bike to School
- 6. Rocky Boy Indian Reservation in Montana Gives Lessons in Reading Labels, Cooking Healthier
- 7. Exercise Before Class Improves Georgia Students' Grades, Self-Esteem
- 8. Seattle-Area Affordable Housing Community Planting Gardens, Building Sidewalks
- 9. Pittsburgh-Area Supermarket a Showplace for Healthier Food Options
- 10. Healthy Eating is a Community Event in Guam
- 11. Minnesota Interfaith Group Works to Provide Access to Healthier Foods and Exercise
- 12. Santa Cruz County Students Making Local Restaurants Healthier
- 13. A Victory For Urban Agriculture in Kansas City
- 14. Los Angeles Attorneys: Physical Education is a Right, Not a Privilege
- 15. Georgia Community Making Parks More Accessible
- 16. El Paso Group Teaches Kids to Eat Healthier
- 17. Cincinnati Churches Take Wellness Pledge
- 18. Buffalo Residents Work to Increase Access to Healthy Food, Exercise
- 19. Hawaii Says Aloha to Safe Streets
Oxford, Miss., is helping residents lead more active lives by making it easier for them to get around town without a car.
In the past two years, new sidewalks, medians and raised crosswalks have been created. Sidewalks have been linked to a network of bicycle and pedestrian paths. The local university has started a free bicycle-lending program, while the city has added bike racks to its buses. And a program called “Walking Wednesdays” has made it easier for children to walk to school at least once a week.
“It’s all coming together,” says longtime Oxford resident and community health advocate Jeffrey Hallam, who directs the Center for Health Behavior Research at The University of Mississippi. “We’re moving quickly and decisively as a community to improve our ability to get around without driving.”
Home to approximately 19,000 permanent residents and 12,000 university students, “Oxford is a traditional Southern town,” Hallam says. “The square is a thriving place to be and a potential hub for increased physical activity. But when people drive into town, is there a place they can park and then walk to do their shopping and other errands? Can they unload a bicycle and get around that way?”
Unfortunately, Oxford is traditional in other ways, too. It is the county seat for Lafayette County in north-central Mississippi, where the adult obesity rate is 31 percent. Southern states have the highest obesity prevalence in the country, and Mississippi tops the list. A third of adults and more than a fifth of youths there are obese.
So encouraging daily physical activity is one of Oxford’s top policy priorities.
Mike Dupper has lived in Oxford for more than 30 years. A seasoned runner, he’s often up before the sun to beat the traffic and, during summer months, triple-digit temperatures. Although the city recently passed a “three-foot rule” requiring vehicles to give walkers, joggers and cyclists at least three feet of space on the roadway, “sometimes it’s like cars almost aim for you,” Dupper says.
He appreciates the increased safety from infrastructure changes—from a new off-road trail built on former train tracks to a widened shoulder along Molly Bar Road. “It’s a steep hill near campus, which runners love, but you used to put yourself at risk sharing that road with cars,” he says. “Now there are eight-foot shoulders along both sides, wide enough to run three or four abreast.”
The Oxford public school district is also taking steps—literally. On Walking Wednesdays, children can be dropped off by their parents at designated lots and then walk the rest of the way to school, accompanied by adult volunteers. Although the program attracts mostly younger children, an increasing number of middle school students are in the crowd. Teachers report that those who participate are more alert and attentive in the classroom.
Oxford’s experience could instruct other small communities. “Until now,” Hallam explains, “most research on obesity has focused on conditions in urban and suburban settings that are too different from rural settings to use or simply tweak.” In urban and suburban areas, for example, most adolescents’ physical activity begins to decrease once they can drive, because they are then less likely to walk or bike to school. In rural areas, he notes, the opposite is true. “Once children turn 16, they often get more exercise since they’re no longer dependent on parents to drive them to recreational activities—the school gym or baseball field, a community park or a pool.”
Oxford’s efforts have received support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) through its Active Living Research program, which supports research that examines how environments and policies influence physical activity for children and their families, especially in communities where resources are few and rates of obesity are high, to help reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity.
Hallam worked with Active Living Research to develop a set of easy-to-use tools designed to help rural communities determine how activity-friendly their particular environments are. These Rural Active Living Assessment (RALA) tools include the Town-Wide Assessment, which looks at general characteristics and recreational amenities; the Program and Policy Assessment, which reviews government and school policies related to physical activity; and the Street-Segment Assessment, which collects information specific to thoroughfares, such as traffic, surrounding land use and walkability. Seven communities in Mississippi, Alabama, California, Kentucky and Maine were involved in creating and testing the RALA tools.
Oxford’s participation “stimulated fresh conversation and strengthened collaborative efforts between the university and the community, a lot of it focused on bike and walking pathways,” Hallam says. “It’s all becoming much more integrated.”
In fact, results from the RALA study helped Oxford secure funding from the state transportation department through the Safe Routes to School program; the money paid for improvements to sidewalks, crosswalks and bicycle and pedestrian paths. When the city later received $500,000 in federal funds, Oxford’s Board of Alderman decided to apply the entire amount to further improve and expand those paths.
While the need to address disparities in care is well known, few strategies for reducing disparities have been studied systematically.
RWJF examines the types of competitive foods - foods and beverages schools offer outside of meal programs - available in our nation's school...
"The light at the end of the tunnel is ... that I carried the struggle further, and that I taught my children correctly, in the way they cho...
In 1990, Dr. Hotz's focus on collaboration led to the creation of another nonprofit organization designed to coordinate public and private h...
To Dr. Cheryl Holder, success lies in "…understanding the needs of my community and how to make solutions happen."
"I remember Ronald's smile and upbeat attitude about everything. No matter how despairing and hopeless I felt (I was clinically depressed) h...
To Dr. Arlene Goldsmith, anyone can become a leader, provided they are driven, have a personality that is open and engaging, and a passionat...
Whatever I learn from those experiences, I pass on to the people around me, so they don't have to go through what I went through in order to...
Since winning the award, Dr. Bonds has expanded her health-related educational programs, particularly through the increased use of technolog...
"Being a volunteer tests you, to see if you really can make a difference and if you really want to do it - because you do have to make sacri...
"Mr. Chatman will always be in my heart and mind. He taught me to love myself and others. He gave me a chance when no one else would."
The way Mr. Lynch looks at it, anyone can be a leader - with mentoring, training, and the right opportunity (the chance to make a living doi...