The Walk Works project is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Health through the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Six counties in Pennsylvania are participating in this program including Cambria, Crawford, Greene, Venango, Washington, and McKean. Pitt-Bradford's Center for Rural Health Practice serves as the sub-award for McKean County
The object of Walk Works is to increase physical activity among children and adults by establishing community-based walking programs. The three main goals of the program are to identify and promote safe walking routes, establish guided community-based walking groups, and impact local policy to increase access to safe walking routes.
Through Walk Works, access to local walking routes and social support of individuals wanting to improve their activity habits will be enhanced. Creating and enhancing access to places where people can be physically active helps people adopt and maintain healthier behaviors. Evidence-based recommendations to increase physical activity include:
- modifying existing places to improve usability and appearance,
- building new places such as trails,
- promoting the use of places for physical activity by raising awareness of their existence and providing support systems to encourage use.
Social systems outside the family such as workplace, church, school or clubs, are important influences on an individual's overall health and well-being. Research provides strong evidence of the effectiveness of community-level programs that build, strengthen, or maintain social systems in order to increase physical activity.
Communities that successfully develop walking trails and walking groups, and provide related informational outreach, can expect to see the following results:
- Environmental improvements will reduce existing barriers to physical activity
- Informational outreach activities will promote community usage of the trails
- The companionship, support, and encouragement offered to participants through Walk Works groups will lead to increased confidence in the ability to exercise
- Among both male and female Walk Works participants, length and frequency of physical activity will increase
- Overall physical fitness will improve for both sedentary and previously active people.