How to create active community environments in South Carolina

Creating a culture of health involves many components, from school wellness to complete streets. Over the past few decades, the transportation culture has evolved, resulting in environments that prioritize automobiles over pedestrians and cyclists. The lack of safe places for daily physical activity often leads to people leading less active lives. That’s why creating active community environments is important to creating a culture of health.

South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (SCDHEC) Active Living Consultant, Kelly Kavanaugh, provides active living subject matter expertise to professional planners and state-level partners throughout South Carolina to promote more walkable and equitable community design. Kelly facilitates the SC Health + Planning Advisory Committee and leads a number of policy and environmental change initiatives that aim to increase opportunities for active transportation across the state.

“In 2014, the SCDHEC Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity and Eat Smart Move More South Carolina worked with six local communities to implement strategies that increased opportunities for active travel. Lessons learned were used to develop a beginner’s guide for communities that want to create a more active environment,” said Kavanaugh.

Creating Active Community Environments in South Carolina: A Grassroots Guide is a how-to resource for communities that want to increase opportunities for physical activity within the built environment. The goal is for community partners to work collaboratively with local planners and other diverse stakeholders to assess community needs and develop policy, systems, and environmental changes that support an active environment. Using this guide, communities will walk through a series of phases to self-identify, plan for, and implement best practice strategies that aim to achieve this goal.

“The Grassroots Guide provides a framework for creating active community environments in South Carolina,” said Kavanaugh. “During my presentation at the Leadership Summit, I will explain the phases involved in planning and implementing active community environment strategies, while providing key tips, lessons learned, and examples of local successes.”

Active community environments are places where people of all ages and abilities have the opportunity to be physically active for both recreation and transportation purposes. Strategies can include, but are not limited to increasing connectivity through improved sidewalks, on-street bicycle facilities, and multi-use paths and trails; and adopting policies that promote mixed-use development, thereby allowing homes, work, schools, and stores to be located close together and easily accessible by walking and bicycling.

By attending Kavanaugh’s breakout session at the Leadership Summit for Healthy Communities on Tuesday, October 30 at 10:15 a.m. in Spartanburg, participants will learn more about how to work collaboratively with local planners to create more active environments. Participants will also discover the process behind planning and implementing such projects, as well as additional tools, resources, and funding opportunities.