November 2004

Grant Results

SUMMARY

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, which has worked for 18 years to create dedicated walking and bicycling pathways nationwide, developed a health-related component for the organization's 2001 and 2003 conferences.

Key Results
Under the grants, the Conservancy's new Public Health Leadership Initiative accomplished the following:

  • Developed health-related sessions for the 2001 conference, including the opening plenary, five workshops, a roundtable discussion and two mini-plenary sessions.
    • Developed two fact sheets, Health Community: What You Should Know about Trail Building and Trail Builders: What You Should Know about the Health Community, and distributed 1,000 copies at the conference.
    • Added a health page to its Web site.
  • Developed health-related sessions for the 2003 conference, including four workshops, one mini-plenary session, one roundtable discussion and one mobile workshop. All speeches are available at Speeches available online.
    • Completed a report describing best practices nationwide, Creating Active Communities: Ten Case Studies of Programs and Partnerships, and disseminated some 1,500 copies. The report is available online.

Funding
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported the project with two 12-month grants totaling $150,842, running from July 2001 to February 2004.

 See Grant Detail & Contact Information
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THE PROBLEM

With obesity and diabetes rates skyrocketing in the United States, the public health community seeks new ways to get people to incorporate physical activities into their daily routine. By joining forces, health professionals, community developers and trail advocates can enhance their capacity to influence the number, quality, connectedness, safety and accessibility of trails, paths and greenways, effectively promoting their greater use and contributing to improved health outcomes.

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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:

  • 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.
  • Active Living by Design Program incorporates activity-promoting goals and processes into ongoing community planning efforts 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.)

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THE PROJECT

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has worked for 18 years to create dedicated walking and bicycling pathways nationwide. For this project, the organization developed a health-related component — called the Public Health Leadership Initiative — for the organization's 2001 and 2003 International Trails and Greenways conferences.

A 17-member health advisory panel guided the 2001 project; in 2003, three health advisors joined the larger conference planning committee. (See the Appendix for health advisory panel members.) TrailLink 2001: Leading the Way to Healthy Communities, attended by more than 400 participants, took place September 26–29, 2001, in St. Louis.

TrailLink 2003: Designing for the Future, attended by more than 400 participants, took place June 26–29, 2003, in Providence, R.I. The initiative included development of health-related conference sessions, preparation of public health-related materials for participants, scholarships to bring selected leaders in public health (appointed by project staff as Health Leadership Fellows) and conference speakers to the meetings and preparation of a best practices report.

The health-related conference sessions created opportunities for Rails-to-Trails constituents and public health professionals to meet and exchange ideas. They also provided resources and models to facilitate partnerships that can produce healthier and more interconnected people and communities.

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RESULTS

ID# 042151

  • Project staff developed health-related sessions for the 2001 conference, including the opening plenary, five workshops, a roundtable discussion and two mini-plenary sessions. Topics included:
    • A strategic approach to promoting walking and biking among older Americans.
    • Documenting the relationship between physical activity and trails.
    • Building successful cross-discipline public health/trail coalitions.
  • Project staff developed two fact sheets: Health Community: What You Should Know about Trail Building and Trail Builders: What You Should Know about the Health Community. They distributed 1.000 copies of these fact sheets during and after the conference, and posted them at the Rails-to-Trails Web site (they are no longer posted, but new news releases are posted as well as trail facts and information).
  • The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy added a health page to its Web site.

ID# 047053

  • Project staff developed health-related sessions for the 2003 conference that included four workshops, one mini-plenary session, one roundtable discussion and one mobile workshop. All speeches are available online
    • Topics included:
      • Finding new trail partners in the health community.
      • Safe routes to school: health, safety and children.
      • Public health and trails: making the connection.
  • Project staff completed a report describing best practices nationwide, called Creating Active Communities: Ten Case Studies of Programs and Partnerships. Following the conference, they disseminated approximately 1,500 of 5,000 printed copies through participating organizations. The report is available online. Scroll down to find PDF version.

Communications

Along with the conferences and supporting materials, project staff also produced seven articles on active living for its quarterly magazine, Rails to Trails: A Celebration of Trails and Greenways. (The magazine is available to members online.) Project staff also reported:

  1. Exhibiting at the 18th National Conference on Chronic Disease Prevention and Control, held February 18–20, 2004, in Washington.
  2. Participating in the Massachusetts Cardiovascular Health Initiative to examine current spending and policies concerning bike/pedestrian accommodations, nutrition and tobacco use.
  3. Partnering with a coalition of trail and health organizations in Maine to promote trail building and the use of trails as a component of healthier communities.
  4. Fielding an increasing number of requests for technical support from public health officials and trail advocates seeking information about combining efforts. See the Bibliography for details.

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LESSONS LEARNED

  1. Critical to the success of developing the health component of the TrailLink conferences was including health officials in every step of health-related conference planning — from the advisory committee to workshop design to introducing important speakers from the health field. Getting the public health community to understand the role of trails in good public health and to entice health officials to participate in the conference required more work than expected. (Project Director)
  2. A dearth of prior studies may hamper efforts to compile best practices for the field. Project staff found fewer case studies than expected for the best practices report, and it required more time to uncover and document the most promising activities in the field than expected. The movement to make Americans more physically active is still nascent. (Project Director)

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AFTER THE GRANT

Relevant post-grant activities include development of partnerships between the six Rails-to-Trails regional offices and public health agencies, ongoing communication with selected leaders in public health (i.e., its Health Leadership Fellows), continuing dissemination of Creating Active Communities and integration of a health track at TrailLink 2005 conference and partnering with the National Recreation and Park Association to present a workshop on trails, health and active living at a number of conferences.

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GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION

Project

Bridging the Gap Among Trail, Community Development and Public Health Professionals to Promote Community Health

Grantee

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (Washington,  DC)

  • Inclusion of a Public Health Component in a Conference on Trails
    Amount: $ 59,649
    Dates: July 2001 to July 2002
    ID#:  042151

  • Bridging the Gap Among Trail, Community Development, and Public Health Professionals to Promote Community Health
    Amount: $ 91,193
    Dates: February 2003 to February 2004
    ID#:  047053

Contact

Betsy Goodrich
(508) 755-3300
betsy@railtrails.org

Web Site

http://www.railtrails.org/whatwedo/railtrailinfo/benefits.html

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APPENDICES


Appendix 1

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

Public Health Leadership Initiative, Health Advisory Panel Members

Kate Bickert
California State Director
Rails to Trails Conservancy
Washington, D.C.

Ross Brownson
Director
Prevention Health Center
University of St. Louis
St. Louis, Mo.

Mark Fenton
(Formerly) Editor-at-Large
Walking Magazine
Boston, Mass.

Regina Fields
Prevention Research Center
University of South Carolina
School of Public Health
Columbia, S.C.

Betsy Goodrich*
Rails to Trails Conservancy
Washington, D.C.

Marla Hollander*
Program Associate
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Princeton, N.J.

Richard Killingsworth
(Formerly) Physical Activity Interventionist
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Washington, D.C.

Katherine Kraft
Program Officer
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Princeton, N.J.

Helen Mahan*
Community Planner
National Park Service
Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program
U.S. Department of the Interior
Washington, D.C.

Hugh Morris
Director of Research
Rails to Trails Conservancy
Washington, D.C.

Tom Schmid
Senior Evaluation Specialist
Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Anne Seeley
Active Communities Coordinator
California Department of Health Services
Sacramento, Calif.

Tom Sexton
Pennsylvania State Director
Rails to Trails Conservancy
Washington, D.C.

Deb Spicer
Bureau of Health Risk Reduction
New York State Department of Health
Albany, N.Y.

Michael Stewart
Executive Director
Association of State and Territorial Chronic Disease Program Directors
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
McLean, Va.

Bill Wilkinson
Executive Director
National Center for Bicycling and Walking
Washington, D.C.

Margo Wooten
Nutrition Policy Director
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Washington, D.C.

*Health Advisors, TrailLink 2003 Conference, Planning Board

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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.)

Articles

Droog P. "Ross Brownson: Beacon for Good Health." Rails to Trails, Winter: 14–15, 2004.

"Good Exercise Makes Good Politics." Rails to Trails, Summer 2003.

James K. "Active Living for Healthy Lives." Rails to Trails, Fall: 6, 2003.

"Mind Your Exercise." Rails to Trails, Fall: 5, 2002.

"Safe Routes to School." Rails to Trails, Spring: 5, 2002.

Swope, Christopher. "The Path to Good Health." Rails to Trails, Spring: 16–19, 2001.

"Walking at Work." Rails to Trails, Summer: 6, 2001.

Reports

Health Community: What You Should Know about Trail Building. Washington: Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, 2001.

Trail Builders: What You Should Know about the Health Community. Washington: Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, 2001.

Rosenfeld K, Morris H, Goodrich B, Yourish B and Bickert K. Creating Active Communities: Ten Case Studies of Programs and Partnerships. Washington: Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, 2004. Available online.

World Wide Web Sites

www.railtrails.org/whatwedo/railtrailinfo/benefits.html. The Web site includes health-related information with links to other relevant sites. Washington: Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

Sponsored Conferences

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, TrailLink 2001: Leading the Way to Healthy Communities, September 26–29, 2001, St. Louis. Attended by 430 individuals representing some 300 organizations, including the National Park Service, Maine Department of Conservation, WalkBoston, 50 Plus and Shawnee Run Greenway, Inc. Three plenary sessions, 56 workshops and approximately 150 speakers.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, TrailLink 2003: Designing for the Future, June 26–29, 2003, Providence, R.I. Attended by 418 individuals representing 47 states, District of Columbia and 15 other countries. Examples of organizations represented include: National Governors Association, U.S. Department of Transportation, National Association of County and City Health Officials, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida Department of Health and Path to Health. Three plenary sessions, 42 concurrent workshops, 14 mobile workshops and approximately 60 speakers. Speeches available online.

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Report prepared by: Jan Hempel
Reviewed by: Robert Crum
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Katherine M. Kraft

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