September 2005

Grant Results

SUMMARY

From December 2001 through October 2002, staff from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) collected and analyzed information on state statutes and policies that promote walking and biking for physical activity.

From December 2002 through November 2003, NCSL's Health Policy Tracking Service surveyed and reported on federal and state policies and actions regarding physical education in schools.

Key Results
In a report entitled Promoting Walking and Biking: The Legislative Role, the NCSL noted that five of 18 identified policies have the greatest potential to increase walking and biking:

  • Incorporating sidewalks and bike lanes into community design.
  • Providing funding for biking and walking in highway projects.
  • Establishing safe routes to school.
  • Fostering traffic-calming measures.
  • Creating incentives for mixed-use development.

In a report entitled Physical Education, project staff reported that:

  • As of 2003, 22 states had statutes mandating that schools offer physical education programs as part of the school curriculum.
  • Eighteen states specifically require physical education to be taught in high school. Physical education in high school is optional in three states.
  • The U.S. Congress passed legislation in 2000 authorizing the Secretary of Education to award grants to states to help initiate, expand and improve physical education programs for students in grades K–12.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided funding to 12 states to develop and implement nutrition and physical activity goals to prevent chronic diseases, especially obesity.

Funding
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) provided two grants totaling $99,996 from December 2001 to November 2003 to support the work.

 See Grant Detail & Contact Information
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THE PROBLEM

Physical activity and good nutrition are key factors in leading a healthy lifestyle and reducing chronic illnesses, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). New efforts to develop activity-friendly communities and programs are occurring across the country, along with changes in federal and state statutes and regulations regarding physical education in schools. However, there has been little consistent effort to track these developments.

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RWJF STRATEGY

Promoting healthy communities and lifestyles is an RWJF goal area. One of RWJF's strategies to meet this goal has been to find ways to increase physical activity through community design and redesign, and to build a stronger knowledge base from which to promote active living. RWJF has four active living programs:

  • The Active Living Research Program stimulates and supports research to identify environmental factors and policies that influence physical activity (for more information see Grant Results). Findings are expected to inform environmental and policy changes that will promote active living among Americans.
  • The Active Living by Design Program works to incorporate activity-promoting goals and processes into ongoing community planning activities, and to support the development and testing of local community active living projects, with special efforts to reach low-income Americans.
  • Active Living Leadership is working to increase the number of state and local elected and appointed leaders who understand and champion community design to promote active living.
  • Active for Life®: Increasing Physical Activity Levels in Adults Age 50 and Older seeks to increase the number of American adults age 50 and older who engage in regular physical activity. (For more information see Grant Results.)

The first project was developed under the auspices of RWJF's Health & Behavior Team (1998–2002) during the critical initial stages of RWJF's interest in physical activity and obesity before staff narrowed its focus to childhood obesity.

Since 2003, RWJF's Childhood Obesity Team has been funding projects to halt the increase in the prevalence of obesity in children by the year 2015. Because there are few known, effective strategies for addressing the problem, RWJF is using multifaceted approaches, to be developed with partners at many levels.

The initial goals are to support innovative school and community pilot projects to reduce childhood obesity and to address the huge gaps in knowledge about the causes of obesity in children.

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THE PROJECT

The first grant (ID# 042638) called for the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) — a not-for-profit, bipartisan research organization funded by the 50 state legislatures — to collect and analyze information on state statutes and policies that promote walking and biking for physical activity.

To initiate the project, a technical advisory committee appointed by project staff identified 18 policy options available to state legislatures — for example, programs that convert "rails to trails" or create safe routes to schools — that might encourage the public to do more walking and biking. (See Appendix 1 for members of the committee, and Appendix 2 for a listing of the 18 identified policy options.)

Project staff then drew information from its existing policy databases summarizing state-level statutes, resolutions, pending bills and ballot initiatives in the United States containing one or more of these 18 policy options. From March to July 2002, staff members also conducted a phone survey of 18 state legislators who served on committees where legislation relevant to promoting biking and/or walking would be discussed. They asked legislators to rank existing or proposed legislation by importance and to comment on the likelihood that the proposed legislation would be adopted.

In addition, they asked respondents to describe the appropriate role of state legislators in promoting biking and walking. Project staff augmented the information gleaned from the survey with informal discussions with other state legislators, which were conducted at NCSL committee meetings held on three occasions after the survey was completed. NCSL published a report distributed to state legislators in 2002, Promoting Walking and Biking: The Legislative Role.

The second grant (ID# 046958) called for the NCSL's Health Policy Tracking Service to survey and report on federal and state policies and actions regarding physical education in schools. The information, collected by project staff in 2003, created a baseline on the statutes in each of the states, useful for tracking further developments in the area. The Health Policy Tracking Service published the findings in a 2003 report, Physical Education.

The reports were the first national summaries of state legislative action in the areas of physical activity and active living.

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FINDINGS

Promoting Walking and Biking: The Legislative Role reported the following findings:

  • Five of the 18 policy options appear to have the greatest potential to encourage walking and biking to achieve public health benefits. Depending on the state, some of these policies require state-level policies, while others are under the jurisdiction of local agencies.
    1. Incorporating sidewalks and bike lanes into community design.
    2. Providing funding for biking and walking in highway projects.
    3. Establishing safe routes to school.
    4. Fostering traffic-calming measures (i.e., any transportation design that is used to slow traffic).
    5. Creating incentives for mixed-use development.
  • The five priority measures exhibit potential crosscutting relationships that could expand the policy discussions beyond single-issue policy jurisdictions. For example, there is a logical step from incorporating sidewalks and bike lanes into community design (which may be considered by a transportation committee) to providing incentives for mixed-use development (a growth management committee option). Once legislators understand the connection between the two approaches, there may be better opportunities for joint committee meetings or other collaborative efforts to gain broader support for those options.
  • In interviews, legislators said they saw no role for state legislators for two of the five priority policy options: (1) laws that address incorporating sidewalks and bike lanes into community design, and (2) laws that address traffic-calming measures. Although legislators view these two options as important, they asserted that the state may not be the most appropriate place to set such policies and that local governments are in a better position to develop and implement them.
  • Legislators interviewed often noted that legislation related to walking and biking is seldom referred to health committees for review. In contrast to the committees that typically deal with these issues — i.e., transportation and land-use committees — health committees could highlight the significant health benefits that would result from measures to promote walking and biking, and thereby increase the chances of their passage.

Physical Education included the following findings concerning physical education in schools:

  • Federal actions in regard to physical education in schools include the following:
    • The Physical Education for Progress Act, passed in 2000, authorized a new program under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Title X, to provide federal funding for physical education. Under the program, the U.S. Secretary of Education is authorized to award grants to states to help initiate, expand and improve physical education programs for kindergarten through grade 12 students.
    • In December 2001, Congress directed the CDC to create a $190 million media campaign — called "VERB: It's What You Do" — to encourage healthy activity among youth.
    • The CDC also started promoting its "Kids Walk-to-School" campaign, to encourage children to walk to school if they live within a mile of their school.
    • Beginning in fiscal year 2000, the CDC sponsored six states — California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Texas — to develop and implement nutrition and physical activity goals in an effort to prevent chronic diseases, especially obesity. The following year, Congress appropriated $16.2 million to the CDC to add six additional states to the program: Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Montana, Pennsylvania and Washington.
  • State actions in regard to physical education in schools included the following as of 2003:
    • Twenty-two states had statutes mandating that schools offer physical education programs as part of the school curriculum from grade K to at least grades 8 or 9. These included: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Vermont.
    • Eighteen states had specific statutes requiring some physical education to be taught in high school: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, North Dakota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin. Participation, time and grading requirements varied among these states. Eleven of the states required a physical education component or class to be completed for graduation (Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Vermont and Wisconsin).
    • Seven states relegated decisions concerning physical education requirements to their respective state departments of education or boards of education. These were Georgia, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, South Dakota, Tennessee and Washington.
    • Several states allowed students to meet the physical education requirement through alternative activities, such as the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), marching band, organized sports and approved academic or work experiences.

Communications

Project staff distributed 700 copies of the report Promoting Walking and Biking: The Legislative Role to state legislators who chair health, environment, transportation and education committees; to committee research staffs; and to organizations such as the National Governors' Association, National Association of Counties and the American Planning Association.

Along with project findings, the report also includes a comprehensive matrix of existing state legislative policy options that encourage walking and biking for their public health benefits and a compilation of statute summaries. The report is available to members of the National Conference of State Legislatures at its Web site. The public may order an edited version there.

Project staff members also presented findings before about 20 people at a June 2003 meeting of Leadership for Active Living (an RWJF national initiative to support government leaders as they create and promote policies, programs and places that enable active living to improve the health, well-being and vitality of communities and their residents).

They also presented their findings at a November 2002 RWJF-sponsored meeting in Boulder, Colo., attended by 300 representatives of local and state-level groups (including the National Governors' Association and the American Planning Association) involved in planning or policy as it relates to public health.

Project staff also distributed the report Physical Education through the Health Policy Tracking Services' Web site and by sending an e-mail to more than 1,100 state legislators who serve on health and related committees. In addition, RWJF distributed copies of the report to selected health researchers and policy-makers. The report is available online. See the Bibliography for details.

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LESSONS LEARNED

There were two lessons for the field from the first project (ID# 042638):

  1. It is difficult to get state legislators to commit the time to answer a survey instrument during the legislative session. Project staff did better gathering data through very targeted questions asked during short meetings with state legislators. (Project Director)
  2. A top-notch advisory committee is critical to the success of a project dealing with state policy options. Committee members very quickly and accurately delineated state policy options potentially relevant to walking and biking, thereby structuring all subsequent research. (Project Director)

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AFTER THE GRANT

RWJF is funding NCSL to provide the states with policy options on their efforts to reduce childhood obesity (ID# 052315). NCSL is also preparing a proposal to RWJF to develop a system to track state bills that promote active living, and to create case studies showing the successful local implementation of existing bills of this sort.

In 2004, the National Conference of State Legislatures sold the Health Policy Tracking Service to NETSCAN iPublishing of Falls Church, Va. NETSCAN iPublishing's Health Policy Tracking Service has received two subsequent grants from RWJF (ID#s 049123 and 052154) to create a comprehensive database covering some 20 major topic areas related to childhood obesity (e.g., school-based soda bans, nutrition requirements for foods served in schools, school-based physical education and after-school programs, safe routes to schools).

NETSCAN iPublishing will use the data to produce reports and updates for RWJF and other leading public health organizations, easy-to-read charts summarizing state actions, and mid-year and year-end reports summarizing legislation proposed, introduced and enacted.

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GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION

Project

Tracking State Policies on Active Living - Outside and Inside of School

Grantee

National Conference of State Legislatures (Denver,  CO)

  • Tracking State Policies That Encourage Active Living
    Amount: $ 90,192
    Dates: December 2001 to October 2002
    ID#:  042638

  • Tracking State Policies That Require Physical Activity in School Curricula
    Amount: $ 9,804
    Dates: December 2002 to November 2003
    ID#:  046958

Contact

Larry Morandi
(303) 856-1472
larry.morandi@ncsl.org
Lee Dixon
(703) 531-1201
lee.dixon@netscan.com

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APPENDICES


Appendix 1

(Current as of the time of the grant; provided by the grantee organization; not verified by RWJF.)

Technical Advisory Committee

The Honorable Ginny Burdick
Oregon Senate
Salem, Ore.

Dr. Reid Ewing
Research Professor
Rutgers University
New Brunswick, N.J.

Bill Klein
Research Director
American Planning Association
Chicago, Ill.

Chris Kochtitzky
Program Analyst
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Atlanta, Ga.

Leslie Linton
San Diego State University
San Diego, Calif.

Harriet Tregoning
Special Secretary of Smart Growth
Baltimore, Md.


Appendix 2

Policy Options Available to State Legislatures Most Likely to Be Effective in Encouraging Walking and Biking, in Promoting Walking and Biking: The Legislative Role

  1. Incorporate sidewalks and bike lanes into community design.
  2. Location-efficient mortgages.
  3. Greenways and greenspace.
  4. Smart growth initiatives.
  5. Incentives for mixed-use development.
  6. Urban infill and redevelopment.
  7. Safe routes to school.
  8. Multimodal transportation.
  9. Traffic-calming measures.
  10. Statewide pedestrian and bike plans to promote access to schools, places of employment and recreation, and major activity centers.
  11. Provide funding for biking and walking in highway projects.
  12. Rails-to-trails programs.
  13. Transit-oriented redevelopment incentive packages.
  14. Provide education to judges and district attorneys regarding pedestrian and bike laws and enforcement, including the effects of plea bargaining.
  15. School location incentives to make schools the center of a community.
  16. Governor's Council on Fitness.
  17. Employer support for active transport.
  18. Context-sensitive design.

Note: The National Conference of State Legislatures' report, Promoting Walking and Biking: The Legislative Role, contains a table showing which states have existing legislation covering these 18 policy options or have proposed legislation covering these policy options. The report may be ordered at the organization's Web site.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)

Reports

Byrne D. Physical Education. Falls Church, Va.: NETSCAN iPublishing, 2003. Also available online.

Robbins LT and Morandi L. Promoting Walking and Biking: The Legislative Role. Denver: National Conference of State Legislatures, 2002. The report may be viewed by members of the National Conference of State Legislatures, and is for sale to nonmembers online.

Survey Instruments

"NCSL/RWJ Legislator Survey, Developing Policies That Encourage Biking and Walking to Improve the Public Health of a Community." National Conference of State Legislators, fielded nationally March–August 2002.

World Wide Web Sites

www.ncsl.org provides information about activities of the National Conference of State Legislatures, is a source of the organization's publications for its members, and provides information to the public about purchasing selected publications of the organization. Denver: National Conference of State Legislatures.

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Report prepared by: James Wood
Report prepared by: Robert Crum
Reviewed by: Robert Crum
Reviewed by: Richard Camer
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: C. Tracy Orleans

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