Joan Wright, Executive Director, Childcare Resources, was one of the leaders on this year's Community Health Innovation Award-winning Walk Birmingham project. Wright, along with Ryan Parker, Red Rock Trail Coordinator with the Freshwater Land Trust, and Nichalaus Simms, Planner, Safe Routes to School of Alabama, collaborated to create "Walk Birmingham" to do a market test in an identified community. The goal of their project is to test "walking card" designs that will identify interesting destinations and walking routes. The ultimate goal is to create customized walking apps for neighborhoods and communities. Freshwater Land Trust was awarded $5,000 for the Walk Birmingham Project from the Community Health Innovation Awards, sponsored in part by the UAB CCTS.
Wright and Parker discussed their experience with the Community Health Innovation Awards with the UAB CCTS.
How did you hear about the CHIA awards?
Wright: I heard about it via an email forwarded to me from a neighborhood president that is familiar with our work.
Parker: A colleague at UAB forwarded the information to me.
What made you decide to apply for the awards?
Parker: We believed that CHIA’s focus on improving public health and building on the strengths within our community aligned well with our ideas.
Provide a short description of your project or the idea behind it, and why you felt it was well suited for the CHIA process?
Wright: Our idea was a collaborative effort with Freshwater Landtrust and Safe Routes to School to join forces in promoting Birmingham as a walkable community. Through work already accomplished by each organization, we planned to further develop walking cards that would inform residents and even visitors of interesting and healthy walking routes. An event hosted by Childcare Resources would serve as an opportunity to pilot the card design with local residents and gather feedback on how the cards should be finalized. The focus will be to create, design and implement a walking cards for a local neighborhood that will encourage walking among residents. Walking is an accessible and low-cost exercise option that can help reduce obesity and other diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
Parker: The Freshwater Land Trust has been working over the past few years to develop the Red Rock Ridge and Valley Trail System plan, which will provide a meaningful network of sidewalks, bike lanes, and trails that will connect people and communities. In order for the trail system to be successful, there needs to be a local culture of physical activity, so that as new trails are built, they are utilized by residents living in the area. One way to encourage physical activity is to simply increase awareness of safe, convenient places to exercise, which is the basis for our idea of a walking card. The card will likely contain a map, some health information, and a description of a walking route within a community. Our hope is that these cards will facilitate neighborhood walking groups, safe routes to school programs, or simply provide individuals with the nudge they need to get out and enjoy their neighborhood.
What will the CHIA funding allow you to do that you weren't able to do otherwise on your project?
Wright: Enhance and expand work already begun by these organizations but do so collectively.
Parker: The CHIA funding will allow us to conduct outreach and create cards in a pilot community.
Nichalaus Sims, Planner, Safe Routes to School of Central Alabama and Joan Wright, Executive Director, Childcare Resources, accept their check at the CHIA Ceremonies on December 18, 2013
What would you ultimately like to see your project do/be/go?
Wright: Develop into creating walking cards for several areas of Birmingham to promote walking as a safe, healthy and accessible activity that promotes a healthy lifestyle.
Parker: Initially, we would like to see the cards used as an educational tool, so people can learn about places that are safe to walk, which will hopefully encourage more physical activity. Over time, we would like to see the cards spark an interest from other communities and result in a series of cards that showcase places to walk in neighborhoods throughout Birmingham.
How has this experience affected your image of UAB?
Wright: It improved my image—I found the process to be very well organized and delivered. I was impressed with the thoughtfulness and approach of the process.
Parker: It has been a great experience, and I’ve really enjoyed working with a UAB program that most people probably aren’t aware of.