Improving Access to Physical Activity – Joint Use AgreementsPosted on by
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Division of Community Health supports community-level health efforts to improve access to physical activity opportunities. Two-thirds of adults and nearly one-third of children and teens in the United States are overweight or obese – and physical inactivity is a leading contributor to this epidemic. In many communities, it’s hard to find safe places for children and their families to exercise and play. Parks, playgrounds, and other outdoor recreation areas may be inaccessible, poorly maintained, or locked. For too many communities, these factors combine to make physical activity a challenge.
Joint use agreements (JUAs) offer children and their families a safe and convenient place to exercise and play. JUAs are formal agreements between two separate organizations, often between a school district and a city or county, that provide information about how and when the property can be used by community members. The agreement offers provisions that allow families to use public property after hours for physical activity.
Making use of school facilities after school hours allows for a more efficient use of public space and money. Schools have a variety of recreational facilities – gymnasiums, playgrounds, fields, courts, tracks. However, some facilities are closed after school hours due to concerns about costs, security, and liability in the event of injury.
With the growing need to address obesity concerns, JUAs can provide opportunities for physical activity for everyone. Parents and community members can request access to public facilities by working with community leaders to implement JUAs that would make school facilities more widely accessible. Communities can also work with schools to offer indoor/outdoor space for physical activity after hours. By opening school facilities after hours, it allows for a more efficient use of public space and resources, and an effortless strategy against obesity.
For more information about how CDC’s Division of Community Health awardees are improving access to physical activity, visit their website at http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dch.
By: Wendy J. Heirendt, MPA Lead Public Health Analyst Division of Community Health Centers for Disease Control and Prevention