In Spring 2019 the PATHS team received a $5000 grant from the the David and Nancy Bull Extension Innovation Fund at the University of Connecticut to increase use of parks and multi-use (bicycle pedestrian) trails by low-income families in Connecticut and enhance the outcomes of the collaborative PATHS team that includes Extension’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and community development programs. The project involves three, public one-day “pop-up” educational events in outdoor spaces in Meriden, Groton, and Danbury, Connecticut and developing GO Maps for low-income family participants of UConn Extension EFNEP. The Meriden event was held on September 7, 2019 in partnership with the Meriden Farmers Market. The Groton event was held on October 5, 2019 in partnership with the Groton Fall Festival.
The free events featured partnership with Bike Walk Connecticut and included bicycle and helmet safety demonstrations, games, helmet decorating, a bicycle raffle, as well as nutrition education. Youth and families were encouraged to bring their own bikes or borrow a bike from Bike Walk Connecticut’s fleet, sized for ages 9-12 with a few for ages 5-8. PATHS team members fitted and gave away over 75 helmets to children and their parents. Hundreds participated in bicycle safety and agility skills taught by certified League Cycling Instructors (LCIs) and learned about nutrition education through the UConn Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and Chef Kashia Cave, founder of My City Kitchen.
Partners included the David and Nancy Bull Extension Innovation Fund at UConn, UConn Extension PATHS (People on Trails for Health and Sustainability) Team, Bike Walk Connecticut the Meriden Farmers Market Community Health Center of Meriden and Meriden Public Schools and the Groton Chamber of Commerce.
Why engage low income families in outdoor activity and education?
While Connecticut has a wealth of resources to promote physical activity (including over 2,000 miles of trails in State Parks alone) and exercising in outdoor spaces has been shown to impact physical and mental health outcomes, many outdoor assets remain underutilized or inaccessible to the populations who might most benefit from them. Data collected from 1,003 multi-use trail users in Connecticut in 2017 through the Connecticut Trail Census found that only 11% of trail users surveyed identified as Black or Hispanic (compared to 26.9% of the general state population ). Similarly, while 35.8% of the general state population reports incomes < $50,000, only 21.9% of trail users surveyed were in this income range. Significant disparities exist in Connecticut related to lack of physical activity and health risk. The 2015 Connecticut Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Report finds that 35.2% of adults in households earning less than $35,000 per year reported no physical activity in their leisure time in the last 30 days, compared to 14.4% of adults in households earning $75,000 or more.
Harvard Medical School. (2010). A prescription for better health: go alfresco. Harvard Medical School, para 1-18. Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/a-prescription-for-better-health-go-alfresco.
Connecticut Trail Census 2017 Survey Data. Accessed online at https://cttrailcensus.uconn.edu/
American Community Survey 5 Year Data 2012-2017 Accessed online at https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=CF
Connecticut Department of Public Health. 2014. Healthy Connecticut 2020. 1: State Health Assessment. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Department of Public Health. Accessed online at: https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/Departments-and-Agencies/DPH/dph/state_health_planning/SHA-SHIP/hct2020/hct2020statehlthassmt032514pdf.pdf’%20class=’no-direct-text-content’?la=en
Stone, CL, ZuWallack, R, Archambault, G, Zheng, X, (2017) Local Analysis of Selected Health Indicators: Results of the 2011-2015 Behavioral Risk Factor Survey. Accessed online at http://www.ct.gov/dph/BRFSS.