If You Build it, People will Exercise

Expert meeting to promote activity through community design

To help in the design and launch of its new national program, Active Living by Design, a five-year, $16.5-million initiative to infuse activity-promoting goals and processes into community planning efforts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported two meetings of experts.

One was organized by the National Center for Bicycling & Walking (previously the Bicycle Foundation) and the other by the Health Research and Educational Trust (HRET).

Key Results

  • The National Center for Bicycling & Walking held an expert planning meeting, "Promoting Physical Activity Through Community Design: Partnerships with Advocates," on January 10–11, 2001, in Washington, D.C., and reported the following findings to RWJF:

    • A well-coordinated effort to increase physical activity in the United States requires that differences among the disciplines in language, technology and opportunity be addressed.
    • Additional institutional capacity is necessary to affect change in physical activity promotion in a meaningful way: Many programs are small and in formative stages.
    • There is tremendous opportunity for collaboration on critical improvements in health status and overall quality of life among architectural, community-based, environmental, foundation, government, health, law enforcement, parks and recreation, research, transportation, and urban planning organizations and agencies.
  • HRET held a meeting with 26 leaders from community design organizations and interest groups on November 27–28, 2000 in Washington, D.C.

  • HRET produced a white paper, Active Living Through Community Design, which highlighted the link between health and community design and concluded the following:

    • A concentrated effort across sections is needed to make public health objectives and outcomes an integral part of community design.
    • A lack of common language and understanding of the various sectors' approaches is a major barrier to successful collaboration.
    • Quality of life movements are natural starting points for pursuing active living goals.
    • Local elected officials and businesses should also be involved in programs to promote physical activity.

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