Active Living Action Report

Action, Advocacy, and Assessment


Create an interactive tool that connects the community to active living events, initiatives and amenities in our area

Successful community-wide campaigns that increase physical activity include partnerships between public and private sectors and include highly visible, broad-based, multicomponent strategies. The Community Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel that provides evidence-based recommendations about community preventive services, programs, and policies to improve health, recommends community-wide campaigns due to strong evidence of effectiveness in increasing physical activity and improving physical fitness among adults and children.[1] The Task Force and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that these campaigns be long–lasting and involve adequate exposure for all sectors of the community.[2] Successful programs include multiple components, such as:
  • social support for physical activity (i.e. walking clubs)
  • promotion of existing or new opportunities for physical activity
  • community-wide events
  • mass marketing
  • health education
Initiatives to promote physical activity have increased effectiveness when multiple sectors, such as community agencies, schools, businesses, recreation, government, transportation, planning and health care institutions, coordinate efforts.[3] Thrive Allen County (particularly their “meltdown” weight loss challenge) is an example of a very successful coordinated effort, funded in part by grants from the Healthcare Foundation of Greater Kansas City.[4]
To enable a successful community-wide campaign in accordance with these principles, the action team identified a need for a tool that linked area residents with opportunities for an active lifestyle. This tool, perhaps in the form of a website with mobile application capabilities, would not only have the ability to track physical activity but also allow community members to find activities, trails, events and social groups in their neighborhood. This application would provide creative options to promote movement (climb stairs, park farther away, mop the floor), track metrics, and possibly provide partner/sponsor benefits (download the app, get $1 off a sandwich, etc.). Additionally, the group identified the need for the medium to be accessible to those at various stages of health and mobility.
Ideally, this tool will be developed in conjunction with the broader plan for the entire Healthy KC program. It could be marketed through traditional and non-traditional channels such as:
  • billboards
  • radio and television
  • school districts
  • religious organizations
  • non-profits
  • health care providers
  • corporate partners
In examining other communities that have undertaken similarly proposed initiatives, there is some difficulty in gauging what constitutes “success.” [5] Ultimately, “success” is getting more people in the region moving, which is difficult to track without a true baseline. Formulating a goal for visits to the website or app downloads, as well as tracking the miles/steps logged based on the metrics above, are alternative measurement tools, though less precise. Ultimately, the long-term measures for success in this endeavor would be improved area health indicators such as regional obesity rates.[6]
Multiple funding mechanisms, including grants from national providers, local matching grants, and corporate sponsors should be explored to defray the costs of this recommendation.

Launch a community-wide campaign that celebrates Greater Kansas City as a destination for active lifestyles, including a trackable “challenge” to a peer city to get people moving

The action team proposes that an interactive tool in the form of a mobile app that goes beyond simply conveying a “get active” message be created as a part of a larger community-wide campaign to encourage residents to get active. Specifically, it should incorporate a competitive focus, which will allow the promotion of the initiative through local and other media outlets that rank healthy initiatives, particularly related to getting on the “good lists” and off the “bad lists.”[7] Suggestions around this idea include:
  • “Race to the Moon” -A round trip to the moon is approximately 477,800 miles. This means it takes roughly 1 billion steps to travel that distance. Greater Kansas City, through Healthy KC, would challenge a peer city to a virtual race to the moon and back. The mobile app would prompt users to upload/track their steps/miles each day. Choosing the city to challenge should be strategic, and should take advantage of potential funding sources, i.e. if statewide grant money is available, Kansas City should challenge St. Louis.
  • “Jumping Jack Challenge” -Missouri native General John Pershing invented the “Jumping Jack” at West Point and it is also the official “state exercise” of Missouri. In keeping with the “show- me” vein, this challenge would get others moving by challenging each other, i.e. how many jumping jacks can you do in a week, breaking the world record for number of jumping jacks in one location, etc.

Develop the region’s “built environment” to support healthy lifestyles among all area residents

A considerable amount of research and data gathering has been performed by other institutions in the region regarding the built environment, particularly by the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC). MARC’s Creating Sustainable Places[8] Initiative is an excellent resource and should be used as a guide for policies, planning, and strategies to improve the built environment to encourage and support the incorporation of physical activity into daily life.
Unfortunately, our region’s current built environment suffers from a variety of shortcomings. Rates of biking and walking are less than half the national average and per capita trail and bike lane mileage is significantly lower than in peer cities. Less than 15% of kids walk or bike to school. Additionally, transit usage is very low and our region has one of the highest rates of driving alone. Currently, only 20% of metro jobs are accessible by public transit and area jobs continue to move from walkable/bikeable/transit accessible neighborhoods to areas that require car ownership.
To combat the barriers to area health exacerbated by our area’s infrastructure, four distinct recommendations emerged:
1)  Implement policy and planning strategies from MARC’s Creating Sustainable Places program:
  • Adopt a regional funding mechanism for trails and greenways similar to St. Louis Great Rivers Greenways, a multi-county bi-state funding source.
  • Engage the development and business community via the Creating Sustainable Places   program. Convene a gathering of developers to hear concerns and share ideas.
2)  Adopt and improve Complete Streets policies across the metro area[9]
  • Adopt Complete Streets policies in enough local municipalities to cover 90% of the metro area population (currently at approximately 56%).
  • Upgrade existing Complete Streets policies that were adopted as resolutions to ordinances with the full force of law.
  • Conduct five Better Blocks events in the region each year to demonstrate how streets can be configured to promote walking, biking, and transit.[10]
3) Seek national designations for bike/walk/aging friendly communities and businesses
  • Incorporate communities’ efforts to address active living issues into grant applications for federal funding.
  • Aging Friendly Community, Walk Friendly Community, Bike Friendly Community, Bike Friendly Business, and Bike Friendly University.
4) Incorporate active transportation and physical activity best practices into the KC Chamber’s annual leadership exchange, including a component on Complete Streets.
  • Land use and economic development policies encourage businesses to locate in walkable/bikeable neighborhoods and adjacent to transit corridors.
  • Businesses adopt transportation and wellness policies to encourage alternatives to driving to work.
Assessing progress on some of these goals is possible through the Creating Sustainable Place’s indicators. CSP includes an open platform that allows for the creation of custom and/or community-driven indicators.[11] These indicators include:
  • Implementation progress of the MARC regional bike plan
  • Implementation progress of local bike, pedestrian, and trail plans
  • Number of people commuting to work via walking, transit, and bike
  • Number of K-12 students walking or biking to school
  • Percent of population in a: Complete Streets city, Aging Friendly Community, Walk Friendly Community, Bike Friendly Community
  • County Physical Activity Rates
Improving the built environment will require new and smarter investments in the region’s infrastructure and transportation systems. The action team acknowledged that changes to the built environment can be very expensive.
Still, other investment opportunities exist that do not carry such high costs. These opportunities include increasing awareness of bike/ped infrastructure design in local public works and planning departments and policy and advocacy capacity for land use, urban planning, transit, and bike/ped.
Measuring the success of built environment interventions is a long-term process. Infrastructure improvements and culture change take a long time to happen, and even longer time to impact health outcomes. Indicators of success include:
  • 50% of the region’s jobs become accessible by transit.
  • Rates of walking, biking, and taking transit to work meet the national average in five years.
  • Rates of walking, biking, and taking transit to work exceed the national average in ten years.


[1] Task Force on Community Preventive Services. (2002). Recommendations to increase physical activity in communities.   American Journal of Preventative Medicine. 22 (4S):67-72.
[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Strategies to Prevent Obesity and other Chronic Diseases: The CDC Guide to Strategies to Increase Physical Activity in the Community. Accessed February 13, 2015 at
[3] Heath, G.W. Parra, D., Sarmiento, O., Andersen, L., Owen, N., Goenka, S., Montes, F. Brownson, R. (2012). Evidence-based intervention in physical activity: lessons from around the word. Lancet. 380: 272-281.