January 2006

Grant Results

SUMMARY

From June 2001 through March 2004, Connecticut Public Broadcasting developed, produced, distributed and promoted 21 half-hour episodes of America's Walking, a television series aimed at inspiring viewers to increase their daily activity and to create more walkable communities.

The series aired over two seasons on stations affiliated with the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). The project team also created a companion Web site.

Key Results

  • As of February 26, 2003, the first season of America's Walking had aired in 76 percent of U.S. television markets, and over 17 million people viewed it. As of April 30, 2004, the second season of the series had aired in 64 percent of U.S. television markets, and approximately 6.3 million people viewed it.
  • The companion Web site received an average of 34,675 pageviews (the number of times users click to and view a Web page) per month during the first season and 53,766 pageviews per month during the second season.

Funding
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported the series with three grants totaling $757,025 for production costs and promotional activities over the two seasons.

 See Grant Detail & Contact Information
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THE PROBLEM

The 1996 Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health recommends that all Americans get at least 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week. Yet only about 20 percent of adults meet that recommendation, and a full 30 percent report no leisure-time physical activity at all.

These high rates of inactivity are perilous to people's health because of the many chronic conditions associated with a sedentary lifestyle—including cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, clinical depression and some forms of cancer. Recent rapid increases in obesity and diabetes in the U.S. population suggest that a sedentary lifestyle can lead very quickly to health problems.

Most interventions to increase physical activity have focused on individual behavior change. Evidence suggests that public health campaigns focused at the institutional, community and policy levels are needed to achieve population-level change.

Tobacco control strategies, such as institutional and community smoking bans, insurance policies that financially reward smoking cessation, restrictive taxation and mass media campaigns, provide exemplary models for campaigns designed to change social customs such as physical activity.

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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:

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THE PROJECT

The goals of the America's Walking television series were to:

  1. Inspire and enable viewers to bring a focus on physical activity to their communities' design, policies and social paradigms.
  2. Motivate viewers to increase their physical activity.
  3. Develop mass media themes and messages that can help induce healthy lifestyle change on a population level.
  4. Engage the fitness industry as sponsors of events and programs that promote healthy lifestyles.

The project team aimed to broadcast the series in a minimum of 60 percent of U.S. television markets and reach as large an audience as possible.

Under the first grant (ID# 041227), the project team engaged Mark Fenton, a nationally recognized authority on walking for health and fitness and editor-at-large of Walking magazine, to host the show. Project staff produced 13 episodes of the series and developed a companion Web site that offered additional information on subjects such as walking programs, nutrition and travel. For a list of all episodes, see the Bibliography.

Walking magazine had planned to cosponsor the series with Connecticut Public Broadcasting and promote the series to its more than 575,000 subscribers. However, in the fall of 2001, Walking magazine suspended publication and its Web site shut down, leaving Connecticut Public Broadcasting solely responsible for promoting the series to both the national press and PBS stations.

At the same time, the nation's economy weakened, and PBS stations began seeing declines in underwriting and membership support. As a result, some stations were reluctant to schedule new, untested programs and had fewer financial resources to promote programming in their local markets. To sustain the objective of maximizing the viewership and health impact of America's Walking, in February 2002 RWJF awarded a one-year grant (ID# 044468) to Connecticut Public Broadcasting to support promotion of the series. To accomplish this, the project team:

  • Produced and distributed 600 America's Walking Press Kits, which included a press release, episode descriptions, underwriter profiles, host and producer profiles, full-color photographs, a health fact sheet, and a walking and weight loss program.
  • Reassigned personnel at Connecticut Public Broadcasting to cover the project, including a national publicist, a station relations coordinator, an internet coordinator and a graphic designer.
  • Produced a compilation video of four of the first season's episodes and distributed 200 copies to local and regional member organizations of the national pedestrian advocacy group, America Walks; members of the University of South Carolina's physical activity listserv; attendees at the National Center for Bicycling and Walking's international Pro Bike/Pro Walk conference; and organizations such as state and local departments of health, universities, advocacy groups, public schools, hospitals, health maintenance organizations and church groups.
  • Placed additional advertising in public broadcasting's trade newspaper, Current.
  • Mailed Mark Fenton's book, A Guide to Walking, to PBS programmers and publicity managers.
  • Increased the presence of America's Walking at the 2002 PBS Programmers Meeting and PBS Annual Meeting, including early morning walks led by host Mark Fenton.
  • Subcontracted with Acsys, an information technology company based in Farmington, Conn., to produce a more content-rich and eye-catching companion Web site at PBS.org.
  • Offered advertising subgrants to 17 PBS stations to promote America's Walking locally. For a list of stations that received the grants, see the Appendix.

Under RWJF Grant ID# 047019, the project team produced eight more America's Walking shows for a second season and continued promotion of the series. Promotional activities included:

  • Making enhancements to the Web site, including a redesigned home page, updated information on the shows, an interactive Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator and an interactive quiz on women's health.
  • Distributing of 600 press kits to newspapers nationwide and all PBS stations.
  • Advertising in four issues of Current.
  • Making mini-grants—totaling close to $10,000—to 20 PBS stations to promote America's Walking in their own markets. For a list of stations that received the grants, see the Appendix.
  • Holding early morning fitness walks led by Mark Fenton, America's Walking host, at the February 2003 PBS Programmers Meeting and the June 2003 PBS Annual meeting.
  • Developing and distributing 1,200 copies of a compilation of four episodes from the second season. Recipients included all local and regional member organizations of the national pedestrian advocacy group, America Walks; all attendees (approximately 250) of the Confronting Obesity: Science, Health, and Society conference at the University of California-Berkeley; all attendees (approximately 150) of the National Congress of Pedestrian Advocates in Silver Spring, Md.; and others.

Other Funding

New Balance, the Boston-based athletic shoe company, contributed $100,000 for the first season.

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RESULTS

  • Project staff produced 21 episodes of America's Walking. Each half-hour episode covers five themes:
    1. Personal Health and Fitness features the stories of individuals who have seen their lives transformed by simply walking.
    2. Fuel for the Road provides advice on food and nutrition.
    3. Gear to Go presents tips on the best fitness apparel and equipment.
    4. Call to Action offers ideas on making neighborhoods safer and more pedestrian friendly.
    5. Travel and Adventure highlights great walking destinations across the country.

    For a list of all episodes of America's Walking, see the Bibliography.

    Following is a description of one episode:

"Hop on the Walking School Bus." Very few children walk or bike to school anymore. In many communities, this is simply because there are no safe routes for children to take. Barbara Brown, whose young son was killed in a bicycling accident, is working with lawmakers and activists in her home state of Texas to make the roads and sidewalks safer for children. This episode features tips for developing a Safe Routes to School program in your community and introduces a creative new solution called the Walking School Bus program.

  • Over two seasons, the America's Walking series reached an audience of approximately 23 million people. The first season included 13 episodes; as of February 26, 2003, it had aired in 76 percent of U.S. television markets, and more than 17 million people had viewed it. A total of 158 PBS stations in 33 states broadcast the program during the first season. The second season included eight episodes; as of April 30, 2004, it had aired in 64 percent of U.S. television markets, and approximately 6.3 million people viewed it. A total of 164 PBS stations in 37 states broadcast the program during the second season.
  • The America's Walking companion Web site received an average of 34,675 pageviews per month during the first season and 53,766 pageviews per month during the second season. The site includes information on walking and fitness, pages covering each of the five themes of the television show, interactive quizzes, episode listings, a profile of Mark Fenton and additional resources and links.

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LESSONS LEARNED

  1. Educate stations as to how and where they can best schedule a series. Because America's Walking presented a new concept and unique content, station programmers were unsure how to fit the series into their schedules. During the first season, 35 percent of PBS stations aired America's Walking during the "Before 9 a.m." time slot, which the project team considered the best time period for the series; 29 percent of the stations aired the series during the "Noon–3 p.m." slot, which was less ideal. For the second season, the team more clearly defined the series and suggested to station programmers appropriate time slots for it. As a result, the portion of PBS stations that aired the series "Before 9 a.m." rose to 43 percent during the second season, and the portion airing in the "Noon–3 p.m." slot dropped to 23 percent. (Project Director)

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AFTER THE GRANT

The project team is seeking funds for a third season of America's Walking, which would include both new episodes and updated versions of selected episodes from previous seasons.

RWJF invited the show's host Mark Fenton to present at the RWJF-sponsored Time/ABC News Summit on Obesity held in Williamsburg, Va., June 2–4, 2004, further enhancing his reputation as an authority on walking for fitness, according to the RWJF program officer. For more information on the summit, see Grant Results on ID# 050561 (for conference support) and ID# 051122 (for scholarships to help people attend the conference).

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GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION

Project

America's Walking - A Public Television Series on Physical Activity

Grantee

Connecticut Public Broadcasting Inc. (Hartford,  CT)

  • Development of a Public Television Series on Physical Activity
    Amount: $ 350,000
    Dates: June 2001 to May 2002
    ID#:  041227

  • Promoting America's Walking: A Public Television Series on Physical Activity
    Amount: $ 67,025
    Dates: February 2002 to January 2003
    ID#:  044468

  • America's Walking - Season II: A Public Television Series about Physical Activity
    Amount: $ 340,000
    Dates: December 2002 to March 2004
    ID#:  047019

Contact

Larry Rifkin
(860) 278-5310
lrifkin@cptv.org

Web Site

http://www.pbs.org/americaswalking

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APPENDICES


Appendix 1

PBS Stations that Received Mini-Grants to Promote America's Walking

First Season

CMU Public Television
Mt. Pleasant, Mich.

KAWE—Lakeland Public Television
Bemidji, Minn.

KLCS-TV
Los Angeles, Calif.

KLVX
Las Vegas, Nev.

KVIE
Sacramento, Calif.

KRWG
Las Cruces, N.M.

KSMQ
Austin, Minn.

KTEH
San Jose, Calif.

KWBU
Waco, Texas

WCNY
Syracuse, N.Y.

WEDU
Tampa, Fla.

WGVU
Grand Rapids, Mich.

WKAR
East Lansing, Mich.

WKYU
Bowling Green, Ky.

WLAE
New Orleans, La.

WNMU-TV
Marquette, Mich.

WSJK/WKOP-TV
Knoxville, Tenn.

Second Season

Smoky Hills Public Television
Bunker Hill, Kan.

KAMU
College Station, Texas

KLVX
Las Vegas, Nev.

KSMQ
Austin, Minn.

KWBU
Waco, Texas

Louisiana Public Broadcasting
Baton Rouge, La.

WBGU
Bowling Green, Ohio

WCMU
Mt. Pleasant, Mich.

WCTE
Cookeville, Tenn.

WIPB
Muncie, Ind.

WKAR
East Lansing, Mich.

WKYU
Bowling Green, Ky.

WLAE
New Orleans, La.

WLVT
Bethlehem, Pa.

WMVS
Milwaukee, Wis.

WNMU
Marquette, Mich.

WTCI
Chattanooga, Tenn.

WXXI
Rochester, N.Y.

WYIN
Merrillville, Ind.

WNIN
Evansville, Ind.

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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.)

Audio-Visuals and Computer Software

America's Walking #101: Vacations of the Future, a 30-minute video. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Public Broadcasting and Mark Fenton, original PBS air date April 1, 2002.

America's Walking #102: Heart/Health/Marathon, a 30-minute video. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Public Broadcasting and Mark Fenton, original PBS air date April 8, 2002.

America's Walking #103: Getting the Next Generation Moving, a 30-minute video. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Public Broadcasting and Mark Fenton, original PBS air date April 15, 2002.

America's Walking #104: 10,000 Steps to Fitness, a 30-minute video. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Public Broadcasting and Mark Fenton, original PBS air date April 22, 2002.

America's Walking #105: Squaring Off the Curve, a 30-minute video. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Public Broadcasting and Mark Fenton, original PBS air date April 29, 2002.

America's Walking #106: Anyone Can Walk Fast, a 30-minute video. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Public Broadcasting and Mark Fenton, original PBS air date May 6, 2002.

America's Walking #107: Livability Issues, a 30-minute video. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Public Broadcasting and Mark Fenton, original PBS air date May 13, 2002.

America's Walking #108: This Woman's Not Stopping, a 30-minute video. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Public Broadcasting and Mark Fenton, original PBS air date May 20, 2002.

America's Walking #109: It's a Matter of Independence, a 30-minute video. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Public Broadcasting and Mark Fenton, original PBS air date May 27, 2002.

America's Walking #110: Building a Walkable World, a 30-minute video. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Public Broadcasting and Mark Fenton, original PBS air date June 3, 2002.

America's Walking #111: Trails to Fitness, a 30-minute video. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Public Broadcasting and Mark Fenton, original PBS air date June 10, 2002.

America's Walking #112: Worksite Wellness, a 30-minute video. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Public Broadcasting and Mark Fenton, original PBS air date June 17, 2002.

America's Walking #113: Walking Away from Obesity, a 30-minute video. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Public Broadcasting and Mark Fenton, original PBS air date June 24 2002.

America's Walking #201: Hop on the Walking School Bus, a 30-minute video. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Public Broadcasting and Mark Fenton, original PBS air date June 2, 2003.

America's Walking #202: The Capitol of Bicycling, a 30-minute video. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Public Broadcasting and Mark Fenton, original PBS air date June 9, 2003.

America's Walking #203: Wheeling Walks, a 30-minute video. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Public Broadcasting and Mark Fenton, original PBS air date June 16, 2003.

America's Walking #204: Women and Heart Disease, a 30-minute video. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Public Broadcasting and Mark Fenton, original PBS air date June 23, 2003.

America's Walking #205: The Best Workout on Two Feet—Cross Country Skiing, a 30-minute video. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Public Broadcasting and Mark Fenton, original PBS air date June 30, 2003.

America's Walking #206: It's a Dog's Life, a 30-minute video. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Public Broadcasting and Mark Fenton, original PBS air date July 7, 2003.

America's Walking #207: The Million Year Problem, a 30-minute video. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Public Broadcasting and Mark Fenton, original PBS air date July 14, 2003.

America's Walking #208: The Most Active Vacation, a 30-minute video. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Public Broadcasting and Mark Fenton, original PBS air date July 21, 2003.

America's Walking—Heart/Health/Marathon, Livablity Issues, Squaring off the Curve, Building a Walkable World, a 120-minute video. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Public Broadcasting and Mark Fenton, distributed June–August 2002.

America's Walking—Hop on the Walking School Bus, The Capitol of Bicycling, Women and Heart Disease, The Million Year Problem, a 120-minute video. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Public Broadcasting and Mark Fenton, distributed June–August 2002.

World Wide Web Sites

www.pbs.org/americaswalking provides information on the America's Walking television series, as well as additional information on health, nutrition, gear, travel and links to supplementary resources. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Public Broadcasting and Mark Fenton, 2002.

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Report prepared by: Robert Crum
Reviewed by: Kelsey Menehan
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Kathryn A. Thomas

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