It’s no secret that getting more excise is a key to helping West Virginia improve health outcomes across the board.
But, the on-the-ground reality, particularly in our rural counties, is that not everyone has access to the gyms, playgrounds and sports fields that encourage regular exercise and activity. When money is tight, what to do? The answer could be as simple as good old sharing.
Here, Claire Butler with the American Heart Association talks us through the basics of Shared Use Agreements. This could be the solution your community has been looking for. If you are interested in a Shared Use Agreement for your community, contact The Hub’s Christina Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org
Good health is important to West Virginia residents—certainly no one is proud of our collective contribution to the national obesity epidemic. Changing the trend in our state is complicated. There’s no quick fix or one-size-fits-all answer. However, we have to start somewhere, and the small changes we make now are what will have a big impact down the road.
Getting more exercise on a regular basis is a start. Leading more active lives has a myriad of benefits, including setting an important example for West Virginia’s youth, but it isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
Local schools can play a critical role. Most schools already have a variety of safe facilities, including running tracks, pools, gymnasiums, fitness rooms and playgrounds. Unfortunately, school districts often feel that the risks of making these available to the public outweigh the benefits. Many schools close most facilities after school hours due to concerns about liability, security, maintenance and possible costs.
The Shared Use Limited Liability Protection for Schools bill passed the West Virginia Legislature in 2015 with unanimous bi-partisan support, opening doors to schools and their facilities across the state.
But what does Shared Use really look like?
When Kenna Elementary School in Jackson County rebuilt their school a few years ago, providing great places for outdoor play was a big part of the design. But these facilities were never intended to be used by only the school’s students.
Instead, all community members were encouraged to see the school as a place to play and exercise, and the facilities were made available on a scheduled basis. Special events were organized, including a Halloween Health Walk around the quarter-mile track, and a community talent show using the outdoor stage.
Whether it’s playing on playgrounds, using the track, or pickup basketball games, a school is often that hub of the neighborhood where kids can come together and use property that’s already safe and maintained and kept up.
Shared use of school recreational facilities after school hours provides easy access to safe places to get active. Studies show that when people have free recreational opportunities close to home, they are more prone to get active.
Let’s break down barriers for getting more exercise on a regular basis across our state! Find out if your local school system allows access to recreational facilities after school hours, and start the conversation in your community about the need to take steps for a healthier West Virginia and how shared use can be part of the solution.
Help illustrate shared use in West Virginia with your personal stories! How has using school facilities after hours impacted you, your family or your friends? How might being able to use school recreational facilities after hours positively impact you, your family or your friends?
Take one easy but important first step by visiting www.heart.org/SharedUseWV