Advertisement

The Path to Active Living

Physical Activity Through Community Design in Somerville, Massachusetts

      Background

      Somerville, Massachusetts, an ethnically diverse, urban community northwest of Boston, presents opportunities and challenges for active living. With a dense street grid, well-maintained sidewalks, neighborhood parks, and existing Community Path, Somerville is very walkable. However, two major surface arteries traverse and bisect neighborhoods, creating pedestrian safety and environmental justice issues.

      Intervention

      Major goals included promoting increased collaboration and communication among existing active-living efforts; managing the Community Path extension project; encouraging Portuguese-speaking adults to incorporate daily physical activity; leveraging existing urban planning work to establish secure, attractive walking/biking corridors; and embedding active-living messages in everyday life.

      Results

      The Somerville Active Living by Design Partnership (ALbD) successfully created a robust task force that was integrated with citywide active-living efforts, secured resources to increase infrastructure and support for active living, including city-level coordinator positions, and changed decision-making practices that led to incorporation of pedestrian and bicycle transportation priorities into city planning and that influenced the extension of the Community Path.

      Lessons learned

      Partnerships must employ sustainability planning early on, utilize skilled facilitative leaders to manage leadership transitions, and engage new partners. Identifying, cultivating, and celebrating champions, especially those with political power, are critical. Working closely with research partners leads to rich data sources for planning and evaluation. Changing the built environment is difficult; working toward smaller wins is realistic and achievable.

      Conclusions

      The synergy of ALbD and other community interventions created a foundation for short-term successes and accelerated political–cultural changes already underway with respect to active living.
      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'

      Subscribe:

      Subscribe to American Journal of Preventive Medicine
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect

      References

        • Massachusetts Department of Revenue Municipal Databank/Local Aid Section
        FY07 general fund expenditures per capita for 50,000+ population cities.
        • U.S. Census Bureau
        Census.
        2000
      1. Unpublished city-specific 2002 Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) data from the Institute for Community Health.
        2003
      2. Unpublished Enrollment Report released on October 1, 1999 by Somerville, MA: 4th graders at-risk for overweight and overweight by school compared with demographic statistics by school for 1999–2000.

        • Economos C.D.
        • Folta S.C.
        • Goldberg J.
        • et al.
        A community-based restaurant initiative to increase availability of healthy menu options in Somerville, Massachusetts: Shape Up Somerville.
        Prev Chronic Dis. 2009; 6: A102
        • Economos C.D.
        • Hyatt R.R.
        • Goldberg J.P.
        • et al.
        A community intervention reduces BMI z-score in children: Shape Up Somerville first year results.
        Obesity (Silver Spring). 2007; 15: 1325-1336
        • Folta S.C.
        • Goldberg J.P.
        • Economos C.
        • Bell R.
        • Landers S.
        • Hyatt R.
        Assessing the use of school public address systems to deliver nutrition messages to children: Shape up Somerville—audio adventures.
        J Sch Health. 2006; 76 (quiz 482–4): 459-464
        • Goldberg J.P.
        • Collins J.J.
        • Folta S.C.
        • et al.
        Retooling food service for early elementary school students in Somerville, Massachusetts: the Shape Up Somerville experience.
        Prev Chronic Dis. 2009; 6: A103
        • Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
        School and District Profiles, Selected Populations (2008–09).
        • Bors P.
        • Dessauer M.
        • Bell R.
        • Wilkerson R.
        • Lee J.
        • Strunk S.
        The Active Living by Design national program: community initiatives and lessons learned.
        Am J Prev Med. 2009; 37: S313-S321
        • CDC, National Center for Health Statistics
        Interaction Associates.
        Facilitative leadership. 1997
        • Kraft K.
        • O'Neill C.
        Evolutionary sustainability.
        Reconceptualizing sustainability of organizational and community change. Wholonomy Consulting, LLC, April 2007
        • Parker-Pope T.
        As child obesity surges, one town finds way to slim.
        Somerville, Mass., goes beyond schools to push exercise, good eating. The Wall Street Journal, 2007, May 10