Get Active Orlando (GAO), a community partnership focused on increasing active living in one lower income neighborhood in Orlando, FL, has succeeded in both promoting policy changes leading to long-term physical improvements, and creating programs to increase physical activity, according to an assessment by representatives of GAO and the city.
Data shows Orlando’s population, and particularly its Hispanic and African-American populations, are more sedentary than both state and national averages. Starting in 2002, GAO received five-year funding to improve activity levels in Orlando’s downtown Parramore Heritage neighborhood, whose 7,000 residents are largely African-American (93%) or Hispanic (4%), live in poverty (51%) and have no vehicle (40%). The area is plagued by crime, lacks neighborhood schools and is bifurcated by two major highways that limit community cohesion and mobility. But the assessment’s authors say GAO’s long- and short-term efforts are having an impact.
- A baseline survey of the actual and perceived state of the neighborhood has proven potent. For example, the survey revealed that just because an environment was in good physical shape, that did not always mean the environment was perceived as safe and appealing. This led GAO to realize its efforts needed to do more than advocate for more sidewalks and bikeways.
- Led by the city’s planning director, GAO identified government actions necessary to create a built environment more supportive of pedestrians and bikers. Government agencies incorporated GAO’s data and goals into Orlando’s transportation plans, streetscape guidelines, design standards review checklist for building approval, and growth management policies.
- Efforts to increase active living in the shorter term included a social marketing campaign to encourage simple lifestyle changes, a senior walking program, community gardens and biking giveaways and activities.
- GAO has been effective because it has been led by the city’s Planning Director, was supported by government, and was able to create connections across disciplines, such as public health, planning, transportation and economic development. The program also engages community members, including youth, to develop and implement activities.
GAO now is transferring management of physical activity programs to community-based organizations and securing funding to move beyond the geographic and population boundaries of its initial single-neighborhood project.