Taking the Next Steps for Healthy Connected Communities

The Shaping Elizabeth Team conducted a walkability audit of the Elizabeth community on Thursday, May 23 in order to assess, “how walkable is our community?” Everyone benefits from increasing physical activity and walking is one of the most accessible activities for most people. Benefits of walking include: improved fitness, reduced risks of certain health problems, cleaner air, and a great sense of community.  But walking needs to be safe and easy! The walkability audit was designed to help us assess how well our Elizabeth community is doing.

10 Members of the Elizabeth community conducted a Walkability audit along with William Riviere, NJ Department of Transportation, staff for Safe Routes to School, interns from Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center and members of the Shaping NJ staff.  We were led by Steven Wong and Layla Frye from Michael Baker Corporation and Charles Brown from Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center. Community members included representatives from the City of Elizabeth, Groundwork Elizabeth, Neighborhood Watch and Elizabeth Police Department.

3 teams of 6 people dressed in orange vests and comfortable shoes conducted 6 walking audits approximately 2 ½ miles each.  The routes included segments along Catherine Street, Madison Avenue, Jefferson Avenue, Elizabeth/Rahway Avenue, Grant Street and Bridge/MLK Boulevard & Winfield Scott Plaza. Routes were pre-selected after data was collected from community members and discussed at a stakeholders meeting on April 23, 2013.

The audit questions included:

  • Did you have room to walk?
  • Was it easy to cross the streets?
  • Did drivers behave well?
  • Could you follow safety rules?
  • Was your walk pleasant?

Each team rated each section on a scale of 1-6 (1 being lowest, and 6 highest).  Subsequently we added the scores up to see where the Elizabeth streets fell in the following ranges:

5-10     It’s a disaster for walking!
11-15   It needs a lot of work.  You deserve better than that.
16-20   Okay, but it needs work.
21-25   Celebrate a little.  Your neighborhood is pretty good.
26-30   Celebrate! You have a great neighborhood for walking.

Teams returned to the Elizabeth Branch to reveal their findings and discuss how the walk felt. Results of the audit will be distributed to the Shaping Elizabeth team in June.  Recommendations will be made to the appropriate agencies in Elizabeth to affect changes which will support a walking community for healthy living.walkability audit 1walkability audit 2

  1. The team getting ready to take to the streets!
  2. Community members access how the area is for walking.

The YMCA of Eastern Union County, Trinitas Regional Medical Center, Groundwork Elizabeth, The City of Elizabeth, Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center, Rutgers and Michael Baker Corporation are working together to Shaping Elizabeth for improved the health and well-being of the residents of the City of Elizabeth.

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Healthy Connected Communities Begin With A Walk

Walkability Audit Route Selection Meeting #2

Alane McCahey (YMCA of Eastern Union County) presents information on Shaping Elizabeth Team.

Elizabeth Community Leaders Come Together to Discuss Walkability Audit

On Tuesday, April 23, 2013 nineteen Elizabeth and Union County community leaders came together to choose walking routes for our Community Walkability Audit on May 23, 2013.  Leaders included representatives from City of Elizabeth, Trinitas Regional Medical Center, Groundwork Elizabeth, Elizabeth Police Department, Meadowlink, North Jersey Department of Transportation, Shaping NJ. Michael Baker Corporation, Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center, Rutgers and the YMCA of Eastern Union County.

Steve Wong, Project Manager and Layla Frye, Project Planner from Michael Baker Corporation lead the team through a presentation on the data collected from the community, as well as an exercise to choose the routes for the planned May 23rd Walkability Audit. All present were engaged in the discussion and chose 6-7 “routes” within the Elizabeth Community that are heavily trafficked by pedestrians.  The Route Selection Technical Memorandum is available for download here. Our goal is to walk these routes and assess whether there is room to walk, ease to cross the street, whether drivers behave well, determine ease of following safety rules and decide if the walk is pleasant.

Route interviews in Elizabeth

After the audit we will all meet to hear results and recommendations in June 2013.

The YMCA of Eastern Union County, Trinitas, Regional Medical Center, Groundwork Elizabeth, The City of Elizabeth, Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center, Rutgers and Michael Baker Corporation are working together on Shaping Elizabeth for improving the health and well-being of the residents of the City of Elizabeth.

Faith-Based Progress in Trenton

NJPHK-Trenton is happy to announce that Union Baptist Church of Trenton (UBC) will be participating in the Shaping NJ mini-grant church wellness initiative. UBC will be implementing two of the three initiative options. The UBC board put commendable effort into developing ideas that go above and beyond our recommendations for adopting a church wellness policy and conducting walking audits around Monument school.  Volunteers are already being gathered for the latter, and the board’s ideas for the former are very impressive.

UBC will host a Healthy Kickoff Event on May 19th, which will feature the first healthy fellowship breakfast. During this event, members of the Kids Church will be invited to participate in a poster contest to demonstrate their knowledge of nutritious foods and physical activity. A special area of the church bulletin board will be dedicated to wellness and revealed on the 19thas well. Healthy tips and physical activity suggestions will also be featured in weekly bulletins, and on their Facebook page. This will increase exposure to healthy foods and provide congregants with nutritional information that will help them make healthy decisions throughout the week. By modeling wellness, UBC is leading the pack!

Trenton Partners with the Faith-Based Community

The New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Trenton is the proud recipient of the NJ Department of Health’s Shaping NJ mini grant. In Trenton, we plan to use the funds to continue to align our goal of increasing the health and wellness of our children with the mission of other influential stakeholders.

Considering all the factors that contribute to “nearly 1 in 2 Trenton children” being overweight or obese, it is easy to understand why reducing childhood obesity is such a complex issue. Opportunities for exercise, access to nutritious foods, and education surrounding healthy living are all crucial components when creating a healthier community.  The question is– how does one make a significant impact, with a limited budget, in a short amount of time? As we pondered the question, we concluded that one of the back-bones of our community are the the faith based entities.   As each church completes one of the healthy community benchmarks below, we have decided to provide a monetary incentive.

Trenton Strategies

The participating churches will use the funds they receive to reinvest in the communities in which they serve. It does not stop with the churches. We are also partnering with Voorhees Transportation Center and the Greater Mercer TMA, a non-profit, public private partnership dedicated to reducing traffic congestion and improving mobility in and around Mercer and Ocean County, to complete Comprehensive Travel Assessments for three schools, combining expert tools with the community data the churches collect during the walking audits. Travel Assessments, combined with technical assistance from the transportation organizations, may open doors for Trenton to receive infrastructure grants to make the streets safe for schoolchildren, church members, and residents.

For more information on this exciting project, please contact NJPHK Trenton’s Network Assistant, Shannon O’Connor at soconnor@trentonymca.org.

East Orange YMCA Takes A H.I.K.E For Healthy Living

Go Take A H.I.K.E.!

“Take a H.I.K.E.” will take on new meaning for the City of East Orange.  The East Orange YMCA’sEast Orange H.I.K.E. (Healthy Initiative to Keep Exercising)” will identify 10 to 30 historical landmarks in each of East Orange’s five Wards in celebration of the City of East Orange’s 150th Anniversary.ccThe landmarks will blaze a walking trail for the community to not only walk for healthy living, but for all to learn the history of our wonderful city.

This initiative is important to the the East Orange YMCA because helping people live healthier is fundamental to strengthening communities and being healthy means more than simply being physically active.  It’s about maintaining a balanced spirit, mind and body.  The Y is a place where you can work toward that balance by challenging yourself to learn a new skill or hobby, fostering connections with friends through our lifelong learning programs, or bringing your loved ones closer together through our many family-centered activities.   At the Y, it’s not about the activity you choose as much as it is about the benefits of living healthier on the inside as well as the outside.

Read “East Orange YMCA Helps Shape New Jersey By Snacking Smarter” to find out more about our other ShapingNJ push for healthy living.

All for you,

East Orange YMCA

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