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Time to step it up
Working toward ‘walkable communities’

by Valerie Verkamp
Landmark assistant editor

A new report from the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and the YMCA gave Missouri a score of 80 on a 200-point scale for enacting laws and state policies that support an active and healthy lifestyle.

The state report card provides communities with a snapshot of how well their state is promoting physical activity such as walking and bicycling to foster active kids and adults compared with the policies of other states.

The rankings are based upon four important areas, including complete streets and active transportation, active neighborhoods and schools, safe routes to school and active transportation funding, and state physical activity planning and support.

The report card on support for walking, bicycling, and active kids and communities allows states to assess the areas where they are exceeding and where they need to improve.

“According to the CDC, of the 2.6 million deaths in the United States each year, over 280,000 can be prevented through sufficient physical activity and healthier eating,” said Neal Denton, YMCA of the USA senior vice president/chief government affairs officer. “Making communities more walkable is an easy way to encourage physical activity, improve health, strengthen communities economically and reduce employee absenteeism.”

Only half of American adults engage in enough physical activity to reduce and prevent chronic disease including, diabetes and heart disease. To improve these stats and the overall health of residents, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy has made a call to action to promote walking and walkable communities. The surgeon general has teamed up with a large network of alliances that are set to work with state leaders on policies that promote physical activity and invest in active transportation.

“States have a crucial role in promoting physical activity through the decisions they make on funding investments, the enactment of policies and providing staff expertise,” said Cass Isidro, executive director of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.

“We are so pleased to have partnered with the Y to document how states across the country are taking steps to making walking, bicycling and physical activity more accessible to their residents—and areas in which states could do better in the future. We look forward to supporting Ys and other state and local leaders to advance walking and walkability throughout the nation.”

The YMCA will continue to work with state and community leaders to ensure there is a comprehensive plan to make communities healthier. So far, the YMCA says it has influenced 39,000 changes in 20 states to improve healthy living.

“While walking is a way to begin and maintain an active lifestyle, there are strategies we need to put in place to ensure safe spaces to walk and wheelchair roll are accessible to everyone,” said Denton. “The 50 YMCA state alliances look forward to working with partners and their state leaders to advance those strategies and help people across the nation be as healthy as they can be.”

Based upon 24 indicating factors, Missouri’s lawmakers need to do more to support walkable communities.

Specifically, supporters say state leaders could dedicate state funding for safe routes to school, adopt goals to increase the number of walking and bicycling transportation paths, and increase the level of access to sidewalks, parks and community centers for youth.

Regionally, Missouri scored slightly lower than most surrounding states. Kansas earned 81-points, Illinois scored 107-points and Arkansas earned 101-points on a 200-point scale.