The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health is collaborating with the Pennsylvania Department of Health to increase physical activity in Pennsylvania.
Pitt Public Health will receive $1 million to increase active transportation — such as walking, jogging, or bicycling — in communities served by several target school districts. WalkWorks, the title of the four-year initiative, will build on previous efforts and complement school-based activities to address childhood obesity.
“There are so many benefits to walking, from improving one’s physical and mental health to reducing traffic congestion and pollution,” said Ms. Linda Duchak, project leader and associate director of the Center for Public Health Practice at Pitt Public Health. “It is important that communities consider pedestrian transportation as a critical component of transportation and infrastructure planning.”
The communities that the project will serve in the first year are in the school districts of Purchase Line, Indiana County; Kane Area in McKean County; Altoona Area in Blair County; and Albert Gallatin, Fayette County. Additionally, a walking project will be established within the Capitol Complex in Harrisburg.
“The Pennsylvania Department of Health is proud to once again partner with the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health to help create healthier communities throughout the commonwealth,” said Secretary of Health Michael Wolf. “Engaging in regular physical activity, such as walking, can lead to improvements in health and aligns with the department’s mission to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent injury and disease.”
By involving community-based partners from multiple sectors, such as health care providers, social service agencies, and local governments, Ms. Duchak and her team will identify, map and mark safe and accessible walking routes, and establish and promote local walking groups.
Simultaneously, the Center for Sustainable Transportation Infrastructure in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering will conduct walkability assessments in the target communities to identify strengths, opportunities, and solutions related to pedestrian transportation.
Pitt Public Health and the Swanson School also will provide technical assistance to their community-based partners and transportation planners to promote infrastructure planning, design, implementation, and maintenance policies to create roadways that safely accommodate all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and motorists.
“The goal is to influence local and regional planning efforts so that pedestrian facilities are considered and enhancements are made to the existing transportation network,” said Ms. Duchak, also an assistant professor in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences. “We want to make it easy for people to enjoy walking in their communities. The associated health benefits will follow.”
For more information about WalkWorks, please visit www.pawalkworks.com.