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WhatWorks for Local Governments and Schools


WhatWorks for Local Governments and Schools is a guide intended to assist policy-makers -- elected officials, planners, school personnel, and others -- in your efforts to increase the opportunities for active transportation in your communities. Its selected resources are intended to lend assistance with the incorporation of health and active transportation in policies and strategies, in comprehensive plans and related documents, and in the implementation of school-based programs. The guide is organized as follows:

  • A checklist for those considering making physical activity a solution;
  • Planning documents* that incorporate health and/or physical activity and that have been deemed to be reliable -- implementable with the capacity to be effective;
  • Policies that promote health and/or active transportation -- adaptable to other communities, easy to implement, and deemed to be effective; and
  • WhatWorks -- programs related to physical activity, active transportation, and childhood obesity that have been proven to be effective through research and evaluation or have been implemented successfully by a community or a school district.

*Planning documents could include comprehensive plans, master plans, pedestrian plans, bicycle plans, or multimodal plans.


The following lists considerations and corresponding steps and metrics for parties to take into account when developing policies, plans, or programs pertaining to physical activity/active transportation in their communities. Not all of the elements presented are applicable in all situations. Additionally, there may be issues unique to some communities that are not included in the checklist. Further, the steps and metrics are offered to provoke thought; there are likely numerous more of both, depending on your community.

Considerations Practical Steps Sample Metrics

Community Health Needs

Has a community health needs assessment (CHNA) been conducted for your community and, if so, is there a corresponding health improvement plan (CHIP)? If you do not know, check the websites of hospitals and health depts.; there should be links to the assessments and plans. Note: To maintain tax exempt status, all non-profit hospitals are required to develop/update CHNAs and CHIPs.
  • # of plans reflecting obesity and related chronic diseases (e.g., diabetes, cardiovascular)
  • Frequency with which physical activity is mentioned to address these health issues

Are obesity and/or related chronic diseases cited as priorities in the assessment and, if so, what strategies does the plan cite to address these health issues?Review the plan(s). If these issues are not addressed, contact your local hospital and ask how/when you can provide input. Obtain data on the rates of obesity and related diseases.
  • # of priorities related to these health conditions
  • # of strategies with explicit actions related to physical activity
Policies, Plans, and Regulations

Has a Complete Streets policy been adopted in your area? Note "complete streets" can be broadly defined as streets that take more than just cars into consideration and make walking, riding bikes, and riding buses safer and easier.There could be a standalone policy and/or the concept could be included in the comprehensive plan or other planning documents. If not, speak with planning staff.
  • A policy
  • Sidewalk inventory
  • Miles of complete streets-in existence or planned

Are there ordinances or other regulations that support active transport -- walking and bicycling?Explore whether developers are required to include sidewalks in new construction projects. If not, encourage elected officials to pass such a law.
  • # of ordinances that support active transport
  • # of traffic calming measures
  • Reduced traffic; # of pedestrian accidents

Does your county/borough/township/city have a current comprehensive (or master) plan and, if so, does it reference active transportation and/or physical activity? Are there are other plans that address the active transportation and/or physical activity (e.g., pedestrian plans, bicycle plans, or multi-modal plans) Check the county and local websites for comprehensive plan as well as other plans. Ask when the plan(s) will be addressed or about the mechanism for public input.
  • Comprehensive plan that has been updated within 5 years
  • # references to physical activity, public health, or active transportation
  • Inclusion of funds and responsibility for related actions (e.g., to develop multi-modal streets)
Does the infrastructure of your community support active transportation?Consider whether pedestrians and cyclists can safely and easily move throughout the community.
  • Walk scores
  • # of public transportation vehicles with bike racks
  • Bike lanes and bike parking facilities
Local Support and Collaboration

Do local leaders -- mayor, borough council, and planning staff -- publically address physical activity? If "no," look for a champion. The case for physical activity should be made from the highest level of leadership. Share positions of other mayors (e.g., Mayor of Oklahoma City challenged residents to lose 1 million lbs.). County/city elected officials and staff should emulate the message. Align multiple departments: health, planning, safety, transportation, economic development, etc.
  • Frequency with which elected officials and their staff mention/commit to physical activity in speeches
  • Physical activity cited as part of vision for the community
  • % of officials/staff who walk, ride bicycles, or take public transportation to work
  • # of cross-sector task forces/mtgs. to move physical activity forward

Do other respected voices -- physicians, television personalities, school principals, coaches, and sports teams -- help to raise awareness of and encourage physical activity?In addition to elected officials, these are powerful, influential voices. They should be recruited to help promote the message to the public.
  • # of physicians who prescribe physical activity
  • Community awareness campaigns
  • Public service announcements
  • Measurable increase in awareness/interest in physical activity options

Is there cross collaboration in the development of comprehensive plans and/or policies?Developers of comprehensive or master transportation plans cannot be expected to know or conduct research or collect data on the health-related issues. Collaboration across sectors -- utilizing Health in All Policies -- can promote efficiency by identifying issues being addressed by multiple organizational entities and fostering discussion of ways in which agencies can work collaboratively to improve outcomes.
  • # of task forces that include individuals of multiple disciplines -- intra- and inter- organization -- contributing their expertise/respective knowledge to possible solutions
Schools -- Programs and Opportunities

Have the schools implemented programs, such as Safe Routes to Schools or the Walking School Bus, or policies that require students who live within 1 mile of to walk to school?Visit the website of or contact your school district to determine the extent to which it endorses such programs and policies.
  • # of schools that have programs and/or policies that encourage walking
  • # of students participating in such programs

Do schools permit staff, students, and the community to use their facilities after hours? Shared or joint use agreements with schools can provide the community with options for physical activity to which they might not otherwise have access.
  • # of districts/schools with agreements
  • # of people who access physical activity options

Last update: October 1, 2015. New documentation shall be added as it is identified.