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The Health Value in Helping Low-income Children Walk/bike to School

Posted Feb 11 2010 8:19am
A new report was released today by the “Safe Routes to School National Partnership” evaluating the Local School Project (Project).  The Project began in April 2008 to provide technical assistance to Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs at ten schools around the United States to help make it safer and easier for children to walk and bicycle to school.  Projects schools were located in Santa RosaCalifornia; Belvedere CountyGeorgia; UrbanaIllinois; LebanonKentucky; New OrleansLouisiana; BuffaloNew York; StillwaterOklahoma; BryanTexas; AlexandriaVirginia; and the District of Columbia) and concluded in December 2009after one full academic year of program activities.”

According to the report:  “the results indicated that there was good progress toward achieving many of the desired outcomes for the Project as a whole. While the results also revealed challenges in promoting SRTS in communities and schools with economic and social challengesalmost all of the school sites reported some amount of policy and environmental change occurring during the academic year in support of walking and bicycling. Additionallynine out of ten schools had successful walk/bicycle educational and encouragement activities that will continue into future years.”

Other major findings of the report include:

1)      “...the trends in the data and the findings from the literature suggest that physical activity is likely to increase along with walking and bicycling rates.”
2)     “calculated carbon dioxide levels near the schools decreased.”
3)      “…the Project was successful in creating momentum for policy and environmental changeas well as changes to the walking/bicycling culture and norms in the broader community.”

The reportSafe Routes to School - Local School Project: A health evaluation at 10 low-income schoolswas released at the Active Living Research Conference in San DiegoCalifornia.

With growing concern over childhood obesity and the support of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaignthis important report should help convince Congress to expand financial support to all States for expanding community-based efforts modeled on the Local School Project.   Clearly there are important public health benefits to be gained by increasing opportunities for children to be physically active walking and biking to school.  

Ripley Forbes
DirectorGovernment Affairs
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