WalkWorks walking program is expanding to Eldred.
The program identifies community-based walking routes and establishes sustainable walking groups to encourage walking for better health. Currently the McKean County WalkWorks, which is administered by the Center for Rural Health Practice at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, has routes in Bradford, Kane, Mount Jewett, Port Allegany and Smethport.
The six routes are one to two miles in length. A team of engineers from the University of Pittsburgh has conducted “walkability assessments” of the routes recommended by a group of stakeholders. Each community has WalkWorks signs that include a map as well as directional signs to guide walkers. These same signs will be placed in Eldred for the 2016 initiative. Local points of interest are indicated along each route, unique to each community. Additionally, the maps are available online.
“Implementing WalkWorks in these communities offers residents the chance to participate in walking groups and gain from the social support of others in an effort to optimize their own health,” said Pamela Miller, project coordinator.
Walk Works is a statewide initiative by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, which work with local agencies such as the Center for Rural Health Practice to identify and mark routes in communities and form walking groups.
“We appreciate the opportunity and the funding provided to us as a local partner chosen by the Department of Health and Pitt Public Health,” Miller said. “Placing signs in so many locations throughout McKean County brings awareness to the program and encourages walking. Our goal was to bring sustainability to the program, so we jumped at the opportunity to revitalize the existing routes while establishing new ones.”
Carol L. Reichbaum, director of WalkWorks for the Pitt Public Health Center for Public Health Practice, said, “There are so many benefits to walking, from improving one's physical and mental health to reducing traffic congestion and pollution. This program can improve the health and quality of life of everyone in our communities. It can help to lower our rates of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.”
“WalkWorks promotes active transportation by identifying infrastructure needed for pedestrian activity. This is a goal of our multi-modal transportation system in Pennsylvania,” said Mark Magalotti, co-director of the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering Center for Sustainable Transportation Infrastructure.
Pitt Public Health and the Swanson School are providing technical assistance to their community-based partners and transportation planners to promote infrastructure planning, design, implementation and policies to create roadways that are safe for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders and motorists.
To ensure that the movement stays afoot, another aspect of WalkWorks is promoting change in local policies that will encourage more people to walk. “The goal is to influence local and regional planning efforts so that pedestrians as well as bicyclists are considered, and improvements are made to the existing transportation network,” added Reichbaum. “We want to make it easy for people to enjoy walking in their communities. The health benefits will follow.”
For more information about WalkWorks, visit www.pawalkworks.com.