Activate Omaha

The Journey to an Active Living Environment


      Omaha, an urban Nebraska community, represents 26% of the state's population. Activate Omaha, formed in 2003, addressed the obesity epidemic caused by physical inactivity and poor infrastructure to support active living in the community.


      Activate Omaha's efforts focused on a strategic social-marketing campaign, using baseline and annual data for guidance. Complementary programming was implemented parallel to the marketing campaigns. Safe Routes to School infrastructure projects were federally funded, and 20 miles of on-street bicycle facilities were funded privately. The mayor's Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee was formed, including directors from city planning and public works.


      The initiative became recognized by the community as the lead resource promoting physical activity. This enabled the initiative to be instrumental in infrastructure changes and programming targeting the underserved. The initiative leveraged an additional $1,475,000 over 5 years. These funds created opportunities to invest in shared community resources such as providing bicycles for underserved youth, building infrastructure through Safe Routes to School initiatives, and successful worksite programming.

      Lessons learned

      Partners should be utilized in a strategic manner, where they are engaged purposefully and serve a role in assuring successful outcomes. Community readiness should determine the focus on policy, physical projects, and promotional and programmatic strategies, as well as the integration of these strategies.


      Activate Omaha grew into a credible organization moving public policy and leveraging new public–private relationships through multilevel strategies. This approach ultimately led to sustainable changes in the community infrastructure and the behavior of its citizens.
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