A center-conducted survey of adults who have diabetes and reside in rural, medically underserved communities in upstate New York assessed residents’ physical activity, social and community resources, and barriers to diabetes prevention and control. Researchers found physical activity levels particularly low and multiple barriers to physical activity (especially walking) such as lack of sidewalks, cold weather, uneven terrain, and inconvenient locations for indoor and outdoor walking.
Together, the center and its community committee are working to make public school buildings available to community residents for walking after school hours, especially during the winter months. The project team conducted semi structured interviews and focus groups in three nearby school districts where similar walking programs are ongoing to learn about program costs, and the characteristics that contribute to program success. The center then identified a different school district as a site for a new pilot program which was completed in spring 2005.
Building on the pilot project and discussions with colleagues from Parks & Trails New York, a statewide not-for-profit organization that helps communities develop and promote greenways and multiuse trails, project partners are promoting walking for physical activity throughout the year (with indoor facilities promoted during the cold months and recreational trails during the warm months). The partners are selecting communities that are close to recreational trails, but have not promoted use of the trails or that lack organized options for indoor walking. Surveys will be used to assess the program’s effects on residents’ physical activity levels and to identify characteristics of trails and schools associated with increased use. Both program and comparison communities will be surveyed.