Fostering Community Support to Increase Physical Activity by Low-Income, Elderly

Second annual Frontrunners conference

The City of Richmond (Va.) Department of Public Health held a conference, "FRONTRUNNERS II: Breaking Down Barriers to Physical Activity," on March 9–10, 2000, on practical approaches to removing barriers to community-wide physical activity among low-income and elderly populations.

The inactivity of the American population has increased, as have the rates of obesity and other chronic health conditions associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

The conference's 53 registrants included state and local health, parks, and recreation officials from Virginia, North Carolina, and West Virginia. The project director characterized the number of registrants as disappointing and suggested insufficient conference promotion and reduced agency travel budgets were among the contributing factors.

Previously, the Richmond public health department sponsored a conference on local initiatives to promote fitness, which was also funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) (see Program Results on ID# 035331). The conference, "FRONTRUNNERS: Local Governments Taking the Lead in Fitness," drew 150 people from six states and the District of Columbia.

Keynote speaker Steven Blair, director of epidemiology at the Cooper Institute of Aerobics, focused on the relationship between physical activity and health. The five additional presenters discussed:

  • A program designed to increase physical activity among participants in the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutritional program.
  • A community outreach program that offers physical activity classes to church communities.
  • Planning and building a community playground.
  • Designing and funding projects that promote walking and bicycling.

Key Results
The project director reported that:

  • As an outgrowth of the two conferences, the city of Richmond established an independent commission to make recommendations for promoting physical fitness in the community.
  • Richmond became one of two cities — Madison, Wis., was the other — in which the AARP undertook a social marketing pilot project as part of RWJF's Active for Life® national program to encourage adults age 50 and over to increase activity levels by replicating proven programs in real-world settings and identifying and testing communication strategies for the promotion of physical activity. (For more information see Program Results.)

RWJF supported the conference with a $40,000 grant from December 1999 to June 2000.

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