Online Program

Creating access to physical activity in high need, rural communities

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 : 1:30 p.m. - 1:50 p.m.

Suzanne Kelley, MSW, Division of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Vermont Department of Health, Burlington, VT
Susan Coburn, RD, MPH, Division of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Vermont Department of Health, Burlington, VT
Introduction: People who live in rural, low socioeconomic status (SES) communities often have the highest rates of overweight/obesity, and the lowest rates of physical activity and fruit and vegetable intake. Access to places to be physically active by sedentary individuals are limited, if non-existent, in rural communities where rural roads are not conducive to walking or biking and there are no recreation departments or facilities.

Methods: The Vermont Department of Health (VDH) supports community coalitions in rural, low SES communities with implementing Healthy Community Design projects to establish places for residents to be physically active and purchase healthy food. With a state-level Healthy Community Design Advisory committee, VDH developed guidance on evidence based strategies and tools for communities to use. Areas of focus are: mixed use development; bicycle and pedestrian facilities; parks, recreation, open space; access to healthy food. As this project aligns with the state's planning goals, establishing partnership with town and regional planners has strengthened the health coalition's efforts and effectiveness. Through quarterly coalition reports, VDH identifies successes, barriers, and strategies for sustainability.

Results: The impact of this program in Vermont incudes: a. Towns adopting “health articles” in town plans. b. Trails, sidewalks, recreation paths developed. c. Town commitment to supporting farmers markets and community gardens.

Conclusion/Discussion: As a result of this project, Vermont's rural communities are establishing sustainable, long term solutions to providing access to places to be physically active and to purchase healthy food for our most vulnerable, highest need, populations.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Describe methods to establish sustainable ways to increase access to physical activity and healthy food in rural communities. Identify effective ways to engage key community leaders in rural communities to support health efforts.

Keyword(s): Physical Activity, Rural Populations

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have worked in Public Health for over ten years, and as the Physical Activity Coordinator with the Obesity Prevention Program at the Vermont Department of Health for the past seven. In this role, I provide program guidance, technical assistance and support to community coalitions and state partners on how to create environments that support healthy eating and active lifestyles.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.