Activate Omaha

The Journey to an Active Living Environment

Implementing the Active Living by Design (ALbD) community action model, a community partnership in Omaha has successfully moved in five years from: (a) establishing its brand identity and community awareness of active living; to (b) implementing innovative programming; and (c) policy and infrastructure change that can have a large-scale impact. Its success, according to an article by a team from state and local health and education agencies, has been due to skillful leveraging of its partners’ assets and a critical evaluation component of each step taken.

Omaha, Neb. is a city built for cars. According to a 2004 community health report card, more than half of the residents were too heavy and only 23 percent participated in vigorous activity each week. When Activate Omaha (AO) was founded with an ALdB grant, there was a need to raise awareness of active lifestyles and change the built environment to make it more walker- and biker-friendly. AO targeted the entire 400,000+ population of Omaha.

Key Findings:

  • Activate Omaha first focused on building its own identity and creating awareness of active lifestyles through communication and promotion. Survey data of residents’ attitudes toward active lifestyles, as well as their reports of participation, all show significant positive increases during the five-year initiative.
  • Building on the recognition of AO and active lifestyles created with marketing, the partnership established innovative programming, such as a Bicycle Commuter Challenge and Safe Routes to School programming.
  • As a result of its successes, AO has been able to leverage about $1.5 million in additional funding for its media campaigns and sustainable programming.
  • Now AO’s emphasis is on working with government on policy and infrastructure change that can have large scale results, such as the creation of a 20-mile bicycle loop and incorporating “balanced transportation” goals within transportation planning.

Critical data-driven evaluation of its efforts and learning to appropriately leverage and manage the resources, viewpoints and constituency of partners have helped AO work effectively. The result is that AO has established itself as a significant resource in healthy lifestyle promotion and is poised to create large-scale sustainable change for the Omaha community.