Physical Activity While “Building” the Community
History and Background: Civic Engagement and Political Will
In response to concerns over pedestrian and traffic safety in 1996, Nashville’s
Metropolitan Council established the Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Task Force
(TAPS) to review zoning regulations, traffic enforcement, and sidewalks. The
Task Force also reviewed potential responses, including traffic laws and zoning
standards, crosswalks, mass transit, and walking programs.12
Although the TAPS Task Force concluded its work in 1998, Nashville’s
Mayor Bill Purcell has ensured the city continues to address pedestrian
and traffic safety. Metropolitan government is expanding mass transit,
improving traffic safety, and updating zoning regulations to enhance
visual appeal and preserve trees.
With the mayor’s support, Nashville has tripled its sidewalk budget and
is using strategic planning to prioritize and identify locations for new sidewalks
and bikeways.13 Citizens provided input at several
public hearings, and the city’s
contract with an engineering group combines expertise in safety and design
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Program Description: Walk Nashville Week and Year-Long Efforts
In 1995, the Metropolitan Health Department initiated “Healthy Nashville
2000” to improve the health of the population. The health department
also convened a community health and wellness team. This coalition – comprised
of agency representatives and concerned citizens – strives to make physical
activity a routine part of everyday life and focuses on altering social norms
to support active lifestyles. The coalition sponsors the annual initiative,
Walk Nashville Week, which features a variety of events from active aging walks
to organized walks to school and a Tennessee Titans football game.
Number of Participants in Walk Nashville Week
In 2001, 6,000 students walked to schools on a designated day and 12,000
fans walked to a Tennessee Titans football game.
In 2000, approximately 170 older adults participated in the active aging
walks. Participation in 2001 fell to 90, largely because the walk had
to be rescheduled (because of September 11) to a day when senior centers
During the first year, active aging walks originated from senior centers
or community health centers. Walks now start at both senior centers
and a high-rise building where many older adults reside. Participation
rates should increase as a result of this change.
Ongoing Follow-up Efforts
Throughout the year, health department staff work with older adults in various
settings to promote walking as a routine part of daily life. Staff advises
older adult groups about exercise levels, appropriate attire, and methods
for maintaining fitness levels. The groups also discuss pedestrian safety.
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Community Partners: Non-Profit, Business, and Government
Beyond city government, other community partners have played a critical role.
Nashville: A local non-profit advocacy organization, Walk/Bike Nashville
helps plan and implement city improvements to expand walking and
biking opportunities. They also educate the public through forums,
such as a free workshop to teach participants the characteristics of
a “walkable” community
and how to conduct walking and biking audits of neighborhoods.14
Nashville also promotes monthly “Car-Free Fridays” that
challenge residents to walk, bike, or ride public transportation to work
on the last Friday of every month. Their web site features group meeting
times and locations and safe cycling tips.15
businesses: Businesses support and sponsor events during Walk Nashville
Week. These include large corporations (e.g., Coca Cola, Bridgestone-Firestone);
regional businesses (e.g., Kroger supermarkets); smaller, local enterprises;
and local non-profits (e.g., Nashville’s Arthritis Foundation chapter).
Businesses contribute funds and in-kind donations, such as food, water, or
The Bottom Line: Funding
Nashville plans to secure additional funding from foundations and other sources
to support its active living initiatives.
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- Nashville-Davidson County released
its Strategic Plan for Sidewalks and Bikeways in 2002 to guide
the addition of sidewalks and other structural changes to Nashville.
The mayor announced plans to fully fund the first year of the plan,
which calls for 60 miles of new bikeways, improvements to existing
sidewalks, and construction of 116 miles of new ones.
- Walking programs will span more neighborhoods and
target all age groups.
- The city will continue to focus on walking for older adults because
surveys indicate a lack of interest in biking.
- Plans for next year’s
Walk Nashville Week include “Walks to Worship,” which
will organize groups to walk together to places of worship.
Evaluation: Data Needs
Nashville has not conducted an outcome evaluation (see Outcome
vs. Process Evaluation), but has gathered some data that will influence future initiatives.
During Walk Nashville Week, participants completed a “walkability checklist.”16
Data from older adult mall-walking groups (individuals in groups who walked
three or more days per week) showed that 65 percent would walk more if there
were better sidewalks and places to walk.
Outcome vs. Process Evaluation
|Evaluation of a program’s progress
can determine utility or direction. In this report, outcome evaluation
refers to the assessment of program goals to determine if discernable
changes to behavior, attitudes, or knowledge have been attained
as a result of the intervention.
Process evaluation assesses actions taken in pursuit of program
outcomes. Examples of process measures include the number of advertisements
shown in a media campaign or the number of active community partners.
Please see the companion report, Program Evaluation: Measuring the Value
of Active Aging, for additional information.
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Biggest Successes: Policymakers and Flexibility
policymakers and other leaders such as businesses are engaged in changing
the physical and social environments to make the city more activity-friendly.
city’s willingness to test different approaches with Walk Nashville
Week will improve the program.
Biggest Obstacle: Lack of Data
Nashville’s lack of outcome data makes assessment difficult. Since the
inception of Walk Nashville Week, the necessary time and funding to conduct
an outcome evaluation have been beyond coalition resources. Although staff
recognizes that baseline data on walking rates should be collected before and
after installation of new sidewalks, no immediate plans are in place to collect
this data. (Potential funding or support for evaluation could be sought from
the state health department, Vanderbilt University, or through public or private
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