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Pilot project seeks to improve health with walkable schools


Getting to school in the most healthful way — by walking or biking — will become an easier choice for students of three Des Moines Public Schools, under a pilot project made possible by a $75,000 Matching Assets to Community Health (MATCH) challenge grant from The Wellmark Foundation.

Called “Step It Up DSM,” the pilot program seeks to address policy, programming and infrastructure barriers to active transportation for Carver Elementary School, Hiatt Middle School and East High School. For example, policies determining the placement of crossing guards could be rewritten, programs could be introduced to teach students the benefits of walking, and improvements could be made to the physical street and sidewalk network surrounding the schools. When complete, the program is intended to be used as a model that other schools could replicate across the state of Iowa.

“The Wellmark Foundation is proud to support this pilot project that will help reduce the barriers that make it difficult for children to walk to school,” said Becky Wampler, The Wellmark Foundation executive director. “The easier it is for children to be more active, the better off they will be physically, mentally and emotionally.”

The pilot program was developed by five Iowa organizations as an answer to U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s call to action to “Step It Up,” a national effort to combat chronic diseases, the leading causes of death in the United States. The Step It Up DSM team includes the City of Des Moines, the Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa Healthiest State Initiative, Des Moines Public Schools, and the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.


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