At A Glance
Communities across Montana are learning how to improve access to physical activity through the Building Active Communities Initiative (BACI). BACI is a project of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS). The initiative provides community leaders and city planners with training and technical assistance to create healthier built environments. As of August 2016, nine communities have committed to designing streets, sidewalks, bike lanes, parks, and trails that will help people be more physically active.
Public Health Challenge
According to 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data, 3 out of every 5 Montana adults are either overweight or obese. Being overweight or obese can lead to many serious diseases and health conditions, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and some cancers. Although regular physical activity can help reduce these health risks, not all people live in places where they can safely walk, run, bike, or be active on a daily basis. This is especially true for low-income and rural populations, who are more likely to be inactive and have poorer access to active transportation and recreation opportunities than more urban areas. Results of an evaluation conducted with BACI communities revealed that particularly in small rural places, local leadership buy-in and community engagement are necessary factors for success.
The state health department started BACI to help Montana’s community leaders and city planners learn how to create or enhance environments that support active living. DPHHS partnered with multiple state agencies and community organizations that could help provide training, educational resources, and technical assistance. Through BACI, the partners introduced communities to complete streets concepts and other design strategies that make it easier for people of all ages and abilities to safely walk, bike, or use public transportation. They also conducted follow-up calls, webinars, and site visits to assist participating communities with developing and implementing BACI action plans.