Helping S.C. Communities Increase Access to Physical Activity Opportunities

By Kelly Kavanaugh, MPH, CHES – Active Living Consultant, DHEC Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity 

Being physically active is one of the most important steps that people of all ages and abilities can take to improve their health. In South Carolina, the Active Community Environments (ACE) Special Project is taking action to improve access and opportunities for physical activity throughout the state.

The counties of Barnwell, Colleton, Greenwood, Lexington, Newberry, and Richland were recently recognized by Eat Smart Move More South Carolina and the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control for increasing access to safe physical activity through the ACE Special Project.

ACE Recognition Event

Recognition event celebrating the six counties.

Bikeway in greenwood

A cyclist uses designated crossings in Greenwood.

Some of the project strategies included: installing road signs; creating bike lanes and bike boulevards; improving school safety with fencing and crossing guard equipment; and creating master bicycle and pedestrian plans for future community improvements. The six projects took place from May 2014 – June 2015 and lessons learned will be used to assist other communities that want to create physical activity options for their residents.

“We are so impressed with what these six ACE communities have accomplished and are excited to see their continued progress,” said Lori Phillips, MPH, MCHES, director of DHEC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. “We are working to implement similar efforts in up to 15 counties across the state.”

The focus of the ACE Special Project was for communities to consider the impact of community design on active living. The program aligns with Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities. One of the Call to Action’s five strategic goals is to design communities that make it safe and easy for people of all ages and abilities to walk.

The Riverwalk in Cayce improves access to walkable parks and paths,

The Riverwalk in Cayce improves access to walkable parks and paths,

“The Surgeon General’s Call to Action is a landmark event in the ongoing effort to establish promotion of physical activity as a major focus of public health in the United States,” said University of South Carolina professor Dr. Russ Pate, who is also Chair of the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance. “This Call to Action draws attention to the important health benefits of physical activity, in general, and walking in particular.”

Increasing people’s physical activity level can significantly reduce their risk of chronic disease and premature death while supporting positive mental health and healthy aging.

For more information on the ACE Special Project, please contact Kelly Kavanaugh at kavanak@dhec.sc.gov.

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