Allegheny County Health Department
Active Allegheny Grant Program: Increasing Opportunities for Physical Activity in Allegheny County
Allegheny County, located in southwestern Pennsylvania, is the second most populous county in PA with 1,230,459 people (1,000,000 1,999,999 jurisdiction) and is comprised of 130 municipalities including the City of Pittsburgh. The majority of residents are White (81.5%), 13.5% of are Black, and 5% categorize themselves as Asian, Hispanic, or multiracial. Nearly 20% of residents are less than 18 years old, while 16.8% are 65 years or older. Among county residents age 25 and older, 7.6% did not graduate from high school or pass the General Educational Development (GED); 32% hold a high school diploma or GED; 16.9% completed a portion of college; and 43.2% have a college degree. 12.7% of the population lives below the federal poverty level county-wide; however, in high risk areas poverty can range from 46-100%.
Following the national trend chronic disease is a major issue in Allegheny County. Approximately 62% of adults (18 to 64 years) and nearly 1/3 of children are considered overweight or obese. In addition, 11% of residents reported ever receiving a diagnosis of diabetes. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death for both men and women in Allegheny County. In 2010, 5% of residents had been diagnosed with a heart attack; 5% of residents reported ever having a diagnosis of angina or coronary heart disease (5.0%); and 4% of adults have been diagnosed for stroke. The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) is the local health department. All health data that is included in this application is taken from the 2015 Community Health Assessment that is located on the ACHD website.
Active Allegheny Grant Program
As part of the Live Well Allegheny campaign, a countywide effort to combat chronic disease, ACHD partnered with the Allegheny County Economic Development (ACED) to expand opportunities for physical activity. One of the major obstacles for active transportation projects (bike/pedestrian) is the lack of resources for design and early planning. Once plans are completed, ACED can access construction dollars more readily. Therefore, the Active Allegheny Grant Program (AAGP) was developed to provide financial assistance to communities for the design phase of active transportation projects. These projects, when implemented, will increase opportunities for physical activity and provide connections to important local destinations and transportation systems via non-motorized modes of transportation. Smaller amounts of funding are available for educational activities, outreach and materials, and events that promote active transportation.
The AAGP is a unique strategy to support active transportation initiatives with an emphasis on disadvantaged communities. Its goals are to 1) increase coordination between neighboring communities; 2) increase funding and technical support for planning/design projects; 3) increase activities promoting healthy living, active transportation, and physical activity; and 4) increase awareness and incentivize low-moderate income communities to complete projects from Active Allegheny, the County's active transportation plan.
The strong partnership with ACHD and ACED brings two areas of expertise: planning (municipal and transportation) and public health together. This practice ties together two major initiatives of each partner. The countywide health and wellness campaign Live Well Allegheny is a major initiative of ACHD and Active Allegheny is a strategic focus area for ACED. The AAGP is perfectly aligned to advance both of these efforts via a cross-sectoral partnership.
Nine grants were awarded in 2016 impacting fourteen low-to-moderate income municipalities. A map of the projects is available at www.livewellallegheny.com/lwa-supports-increased-opportunities/. The total amount awarded in year one was $196,000; monetary amounts ranged from $4,400 to $49,600. Projects included: a pedestrian and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance project; three OpenStreets events; a feasibility study to develop a walking/biking route through five neighboring communities; trail network guide and map planning project; biking/walking corridor planning project; planning project for multimodal transportation; and development of an active transportation master plan.
The AAGP aims to create healthy lifestyle change by surrounding residents with environments conducive to physical activity and access to recreational facilities, green spaces, etc. Adults who do not regularly exercise or eat healthy foods are at increased risk for obesity and chronic diseases. Poverty and zip code can have significant impact on health outcomes in a community. ACHD has incorporated a health equity approach within the services currently provided and the goals for community health improvement. Allegheny County will only become the healthiest county in the nation if the health disparities between geographic and racial groups are eliminated; therefore, the AAGP specifically targeted low-moderate income communities for AAGP funding. Surrounding the highest risk community residents with healthier options and greater accessibility will be a first step in combating chronic disease.
Statement of Problem/Target Population
Our country is facing an obesity epidemic as the number of people who are overweight or obese continues to rise. In Allegheny County (www.alleghenycounty.us), more than 30% of children and 60% of adults are overweight or obese and there is no evidence of a downward trend. More concerning are the disparities in health outcomes related to obesity that exist across race, gender, educational attainment, and socioeconomic status. An estimated 62% of Allegheny County adults 18 to 64 years old were overweight or obese; however, significantly higher percentage of Black adults (72%), as well as more men (68%) compared to women (57%) were classified as overweight or obese. Among the rates of diabetes, there is significant differences between genders, educational attainment, and household income. Allegheny County adults who are female, or who have less education and lower household incomes are more likely to have ever been diagnosed with diabetes, compared to adults with a college degree or those with household incomes greater than $25,000.
Healthy food consumption and physical activity play significant roles in contributing to obesity, which in turn increases the risk of chronic disease. Similarly, to the disparities in obesity rates, the likelihood of being physically inactive and eating poorly are associated with income, education, age, and race. Adults with household incomes less than $50,000 and those who did not have any post-high school education were more likely to report being physically inactive. Adults 65 years or older were more likely to be physically inactive (20%) compared to adults ages 30 to 44 (7%) and 45 to 64 (10%). Black adults in Allegheny County were also significantly more likely to be physically inactive than White adults (16% compared to 10%). In addition to physical inactivity, low-income communities are linked to energy-dense diets that are high in refined grains, sugars, and fats, while low in fruit and vegetable intake. The combination of energy-dense food intake and physical inactivity contributes to the higher levels of obesity and health outcomes.
Today, it is acknowledged that zip code has far greater implications for life expectancy than genetic code. This is also the case in Allegheny County where age of mortality can differ by as much as 20 years depending on where you reside. The myriad of social determinants that surround individuals in communities can enhance or detract from healthy lifestyles. More specifically the built environment in which we live can either promote or create barriers to living a healthy life.
In Allegheny County, there are portions of the county that are considered â€˜transit deserts'. Despite the Port Authority's large transit system (bus routes and light rail systems), there are large areas of the county where bus stops are not within walking distance of a residence. Although assistance services like Access Paratransit Service (www.portauthority.org/paac/riderservices/accessparatransit.aspx) are available to the elderly and disabled, there is still a large population in Allegheny County that lacks access to affordable transportation. In 2012, 74,905 residents of Allegheny County (14.2%) did not have access to a vehicle. Transporting residents to areas of commerce, health care and jobs is an ongoing challenge facing County and municipal leaders. New and innovative strategies are needed to connect individuals to transportation via multi-modal infrastructure. But the dollars to seed projects, particularly, the design phase of these projects has been lacking.
The AAGP fund is a model program that seeks to respond to this gap by providing an opportunity for municipalities to plan and design built environment and multimodal transportation infrastructure solutions. Municipalities that receive funding can create the solutions they need to support active lifestyles while also providing greater access to necessities including medical care, jobs, and healthy food.
Most importantly, the AAGP was developed to specifically support the most vulnerable populations in the county. Only communities with 46% or higher of the population meeting low-moderate income were eligible for the first cycle of funding. These 39 communities represent about 148,160 or 12% of residents in the County (factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml). Two grant applications were funded, impacting three municipalities of the 39 eligible and representing 10,695 residents
During the second cycle of funding, eligibility requirements were increased (25% or higher of the population at low-moderate income) to allow 89 municipalities to apply. These communities represent 537,963 or nearly 44% of county residents (American Fact Finder). In the second cycle, seven more applicants were awarded grant funding, reaching 11 municipalities or an additional 77,246 residents. Together, there were nine grant awards in the first year, impacting 87,941 residents. Successful applications in both cycles included infrastructure projects as well as OpenStreets events (openstreetsproject.org).
Efforts That Have Addressed the Problem
Allegheny County has had a multi-sectoral commitment to develop increased opportunities for residents of all ages to be physically active. The transformation of the riverfronts for public use is one of the earliest strategies to achieve this goal. The riverfront is now part of a regional and connected network of trails that extends out along each of the three main rivers, opening up 137 miles of trail (with 7 additional miles in development) as safe places for residents to recreate, exercise, and commute via alternate transportation. We have unparalleled access to major pieces of property that were previously inaccessible due to the large industry that once lined the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers. The City of Pittsburgh led the way with the implementation of a 20-foot zoning setback for development along the riverfronts (1998). This effort was part of revised riverfront zoning code and the Riverfront Development Plan completed by Department of City Planning. The former Mayor used to say that when the Steelers could not reach the end zone, it was because he had cut the practice fields from 100 yards, to only 80 yards in order to accommodate a riverfront trail connection.
Active transportation extends beyond the riverfronts and trail development to include on-road infrastructure to accommodate alternate modes of transit. In 2010 Allegheny County completed the ActiveAllegheny: A Comprehensive Commuter Bicycle and Pedestrian Commuter Plan for Allegheny County (www.alleghenyplaces.com/alleghenyportal/public/ActiveAllegheny.pdf), a recommendation of Allegheny Places (www.alleghenyplaces.com/), the comprehensive land use and development plan adopted in 2008. We currently have 73 miles of on road bike connections including protected and unprotected bike lanes and painted sharrows (shared lane marking). Many communities are implementing projects that contribute to the countywide system.
The development of safe places to be more physically active is supported by a strong non-profit, advocacy community. Bike Pittsburgh (www.bikepgh.org) is influencing bike/pedestrian transportation across the County from new bike lanes in Pittsburgh, to bike lanes on the bridges that traverse the rivers. It was instrumental in getting the Pittsburgh Mayor to issue an Executive Order on Complete Streets Policy for Pittsburgh Rights of Way in August 2015, which was recently passed by Pittsburgh City Council. Friends of the Riverfront (friendsoftheriverfront.org), a countywide trail development organization, worked with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation on the implementation of an important trail structure in a location where access was going to be cut off by a major highway project. The Regional Trail Corporation (regionaltrailcorp.com/) worked with ACED to facilitate the transfer of ownership of a major railroad bridge to the County. This bridge is now open for trail use. The Regional Trail Corporation was also instrumental in developing a two-mile piece of trail on the site of a former coke gas pipeline right of way replacing an environmental hazard with an unparalleled recreational resource.
Despite the wealth of activities described to enhance physical activity in the County, many of the municipalities have been left behind. With the City of Pittsburgh going through gentrification, there has been a push outâ€ of disadvantaged populations to the suburban ring communities which are often ill equipped to meet the needs of these new populations. This is especially true given the history of the region and the loss of jobs due to the demise of the steel industry in the 70's and 80's. Thus many of the communities previously mentioned cannot advance active transportation ideas without additional resources. The AAGP project represents a novel strategy for supporting disadvantaged municipalities in their efforts to adopt strategies outlined in the Active Allegheny plan.
By bringing public health and economic development together to support the design of active transportation options, the AAGP can stimulate municipalities to step up and consider strategies once only utilized in urban wealthier communities. This model program is focused on addressing a major barrier to success; that is funds needed for design and planning required before construction funds can be obtained. The AAGP is a novel collaborative approach to catalyzing sustainable change. ACED has access to construction dollars and can be helpful in leverage construction dollars to bring projects to fruition after the design and planning phase. The activities supported by the AAGP are evidence-based. Examples of activities that promote physical activity include land use planning and expanding access to sidewalks public transportation, and local green spaces. While surrounding residents with built environments that support physical activity is essential, the AAGP specifically calls for ways to educate and provide outreach to residents in order to create behavioral change.
Tools Utilized/Evidence-Based Practice
Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships (MAPP) is an approach to improve community health through a community-drive strategic planning process. ACHD utilized MAPP during the implementation of the Allegheny County Health Department ~ 2015 Community Health Assessment (CHA; www.achd.net/cha/index.html) and community health improvement plan called the Plan for a Healthier Allegheny (PHA; www.achd.net/pha/index.html). As part of the 2015 CHA community leaders identified chronic diseases as a major health concern in Allegheny County. Health disparities is a concern that was identified across all health focus areas including the content area of chronic disease prevention. Other focus areas include: Environment, Access, Mental Health and Substance Abuse and Maternal and Child Health. In turn, the ACHD adapted the approach to meet the needs of the community.
The AAGP combines this tool with a Health in All Policies (HiAP) approach to land use planning and active transportation projects. The AAGP engages municipalities to impact changes in their own built environment and utilize the MAPP strategy, while receiving technical assistance and financial support for projects from ACED and ACHD. As the sole health department in Allegheny County, ACHD is engaging in the implementation of HiAP as a tool to achieving our larger vision of LWA and creating the healthiest county in the nation. Our goal is to surround the population with healthy choices as the default choices and to integrate health into all sectors of civic life. Live Well Allegheny is dependent on extensive cross sector partnerships to achieve improvement in county-wide health indicators. In the Plan for a Healthier Allegheny, the Chronic Disease Risk Behaviors work group is representative of multiple stakeholders and there is a clear vision of HiAP.
Although unique in terms of its approach to addressing community needs, the AAGP was informed by similar practices nation-wide. The Guide to Community Preventive Services recommends that public health professionals and city planners work together on community-scale urban design and land use policies in order to address physical activity. The guide highlights evidence-based models for increasing physical activity all of which are options for design dollars. Examples include land use planning and expanding access to places that promote physical activity such as sidewalks or public transportation to local green spaces. The AAGP also specifically requires applicants to incorporate ways to educate and provide outreach to residents in order to create behavioral change. This includes opportunities for educational materials and events highlighting physical activity. Incorporating community education in conjunction with new infrastructure can support the adoption of lifestyle behaviors that will impact the health of Allegheny County residents.
Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity
Plan for a Healthier Allegheny â€“ Countywide, Multi-Sector Collaboration
In 2014, the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) began a comprehensive community health assessment (CHA) of Allegheny County. The CHA is the product of a collaborative process that mobilized our community to collect and analyze data to inform the identification of priorities for future health improvement efforts. The objectives include the following: (1) characterize the overall health of Allegheny County residents; (2) evaluate the factors that influence health outcomes; and (3) identify areas in need of improvement. It is the cornerstone that provides data necessary for government and non-government agencies to understand community health issues, set goals for improvement and monitor their progress.
ACHD and its Advisory Coalition planned and implemented a variety of steps in the CHA process based on strategies from the Healthy Communities and Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships (MAPP). The coalition is composed of more than 80 stakeholders from various sectors including: nonprofit, corporate, healthcare, academia, and government organizations (e.g., Economic Development, Human Services, and Transportation). In this effort, ACHD pursued a collaborative approach and formed its first cross-sectoral Advisory Coalition.
The Advisory Coalition and ACHD sought to develop a common agenda for population health improvement in Allegheny County. As a result, the Plan for a Healthier Allegheny (PHA), released in May 2015 was developed to be completed over the next five years. The plan identifies major health priorities, defines goals, and outlines specific objectives and strategies that can be implemented in a coordinated way across Allegheny County. The Advisory Coalition identified health equity, which encompasses the social determinants of health and special populations, as an important cross-cutting theme that should be addressed across all five priority areas. With regard to health equity, data suggest Allegheny County has both geographic and racial health disparities. The PHA was developed and written in a way that engages multiple perspectives so all community groups and sectors â€“ private and nonprofit organizations, government agencies, academic institutions, community- and faith-based organizations, and citizens â€“ can unite to improve the health and quality of life for all people who live, work, learn, and play in Allegheny County.
One of the five priority areas of the PHA is chronic disease health risk behaviors. The main goal is to decrease preventable chronic disease by assuring access to resources, knowledge, and opportunities for residents to adopt healthy behaviors. There are a number of objectives in this focus area including:
Decrease obesity in school-age children
Increase fruit and vegetable consumption among adolescents and adults
Increase the number of residents by who participate in either moderate or vigorous physical activity in a usual week
Reduce county cigarette smoking rate among all residents and reduce racial disparities
Reduce smoking during pregnancy
Within each of these objectives are a number of strategies and activities that make up the chronic disease working group of the PHA. The AAGP is a strategy that is meeting the objective of increasing physical activity rates for Allegheny County residents.
Live Well Allegheny
At ACHD we are framing all of our work to reduce preventable chronic disease around Live Well Allegheny (LWA; www.livewellallegheny.com), which was launched in January 2014. LWA aims to improve the health and well-being of Allegheny County residents through a collaborative effort that involves multiple stakeholders, partners and residents and it is integral to the activities of the PHA. Many, if not all, of the strategies and objectives in the chronic disease section of the PHA are tied to LWA. LWA provides a network for community partners to share both barriers and successful health interventions as well as explore potential collaborative efforts.
Living well is a broad concept that incorporates physical health, mental wellness, personal and community safety, prevention and preparedness, nutrition, physical activity, fitness, managing chronic disease, improving well-being, quality of life, education, improving our standard of living, cessation programs, vaccinations, weight loss, anti-aging, health literacy and so much more.
While there are already a number of programs, studies, outreach events and other efforts aimed at improving the health of our county residents, a coordinated, local effort is the best approach for making an impact on the health and well-being of our county. Behavior change requires a cultural change. Live Well Allegheny draws on resources throughout the county including existing weight-control programs, school activities and programs, health care providers and nutrition professionals, unions, foundations, health-focused organizations and community groups.
There are several ways for Allegheny County entities to participate in LWA by committing to evidence-based practices:
A Live Well Allegheny Community (www.livewellallegheny.com/about-us/live-well-allegheny-participants/live-well-allegheny-communities/) is a city, borough or township that has indicated its intent to work with Live Well Allegheny by an executive action, resolution or other formal action taken by its chief executive or governing body and identifies at least three action steps that it will take toward the accomplishment of Live Well Allegheny goals.
A Live Well Allegheny School (www.livewellallegheny.com/about-us/live-well-allegheny-participants/current-live-well-allegheny-schools/) is a school or entire school district that has indicated its intent to work with Live Well Allegheny by an executive action, resolution or other formal action taken by its chief executive or governing body and identifies at least four action steps that it will take toward the accomplishment of Live Well Allegheny goals.
To be designated as a Live Well Allegheny Restaurant (www.livewellallegheny.com/about-us/live-well-allegheny-participants/live-well-allegheny-restaurants/), the business must indicate its intent to work along with Allegheny County to accomplish the goals of the campaign by choosing at least four action steps in addition to removing trans fats from the menu and not selling or allowing tobacco products.
To achieve designation as a Live Well Allegheny Workplace (www.livewellallegheny.com/about-us/live-well-allegheny-participants/live-well-workplace/), a business must first indicate its intent to work with Allegheny County to accomplish the goals of the campaign by committing to at least four action steps.
A Live Well Allegheny Partner (www.livewellallegheny.com/join-us/partner/) is an organization whose mission aligns with the mission of our campaign; offers events or activities that work along with our campaign; features Live Well Allegheny as part of its efforts; submits and maintains events on the Live Well Allegheny website; and keeps informed as to the efforts of the initiative.
The ACED, in addition to the Allegheny County Comprehensive Plan called Allegheny Places (www.alleghenyplaces.com/comprehensive_plan/comprehensive_plan.aspx), released Active Allegheny in 2010. This plan provides a wealth of information for communities seeking to integrate non-vehicular modes, such as walking and biking, into the transportation system. The plan provides a blueprint for improved health and improved access to connect our communities, work sites, schools, attractions, and homes. Together with the ACHD, ACED has been exploring ways to support the Plan for a Healthier Allegheny, through updated land use policies and innovative strategies that municipalities can use to increase opportunities for physical activity and access to healthy food in their communities.
Active Allegheny Grant Program
In the spring of 2015, ACHD received a one-year grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation (RKMF), a local private foundation, to expand the Live Well Allegheny campaign by providing strategic activities focused on increasing access to healthy food options, active transportation, and surveillance of health behaviors. ACED identified a strategic gap in advancing active transportation projects in Allegheny County as the need for planning and design funding to advance projects to take advantage of funding available for implementation. ACHD was successful at making the case for the importance of this strategic funding as part of the joint application to the RKMF that was awarded in Spring 2015. The relationship between economic development and public health was considered critical to improving the health of the communities in Allegheny County. The collaboration of the two departments was an instrumental component of a successful grant application. ACED is an active participant in the Advisory Coalition for the PHA.
The grant program provides municipalities with financial resources for projects in the following areas: planning, engineering and design, as well as events, education, and outreach. The AAGP was developed by ACHD and ACED to connect both Live Well Allegheny and Active Allegheny. The AAGP provides financial assistance for local municipalities to develop plans and design transportation projects that will, when implemented, increase residents' opportunities for physical activity. The grant funding was awarded to both healthy living projects and activities, such as OpenStreets events, community walking and biking maps, and walk to school initiatives. These healthy living projects and activities integrate active transportation into the built community environment; therefore, they increase access to physical activity opportunities.
Applicants are encouraged to use Active Allegheny as a resource for creating project proposals. For example, the development of trails and sidewalks to promote biking and walking or hosting an event to promote physical activity. The AAGP will be used to support initiatives aimed at improving health in Allegheny County with a particular emphasis on disadvantaged communities. The objectives of AAGP are:
Increase awareness of Active Allegheny Plan
Increase coordination between neighboring low-income/mod-income communities
Increase funding for planning/design projects as well as activities promoting healthy living, active transportation modes, physical activity
Increase opportunity for communities to obtain funding for construction via state and federal funding programs
Provide technical support for municipalities to pursue further funding related to implementation
Incentivize municipalities in low-moderate income communities to complete planning projects from the Active Allegheny Plan
Encourage municipalities to implement Active Allegheny projects, healthy eating and physical activity events, for additional state and local funding
Increase access to healthy physical activity opportunities for residents in low-moderate income municipalities
In addition, by increasing opportunities for physical activity, the AAGP expands the efforts of the Live Well Allegheny campaign to address major risk behaviors that contribute to chronic disease in Allegheny County. By providing resources for the design and integration of active, safe, and walkable and bike-accessible spaces into neighborhoods, this effort also implements recommendations identified in Plan for a Healthier Allegheny.
The grant provided $196,000 for funding in year 1. For planning and engineering projects, the maximum allowable request per applicant, project, or application is $50,000. ACED will consider applications that exceed $50,000 for projects that will significantly improve opportunities for physical activity, connect to major systems, and/or represent multi-municipal efforts. For outreach/education/events projects, the maximum allowable per municipality request is $5,000. The timeframe for project differs by applicant. We received an additional two years of funding extending the project until Summer 2018.
The AAGP had two cycles in year one. The first was open to select municipalities with 46% or greater population of low-moderate income persons while the second cycle priority was given to municipalities with 25% or greater population of low-moderate income persons. There were 41 of 130 municipalities eligible to participate in the first round of funding. The first cycle applications were due January 22nd, 2016; the second cycle concluded May 13th, 2016. Multi-municipal efforts are also allowed and encouraged, in which case at least one of the participating municipalities must meet the income eligibility requirement. The AAGP considered the following types of projects: 1) Planning- projects that seek to identify the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists, and then developed recommendations for addressing the needs (i.e. create an active transportation plan); 2) Engineering and Design â€“ projects that seek to move a proposed project towards construction implementation (i.e. complete design work on a specific pedestrian improvement highlighted in Active Allegheny or community comprehensive plan; and 3) Events, Education, Outreach â€“ projects and activities that seek to promote healthy living, walking and bicycling as forms of transportation and physical activity (i.e. production of community walking or biking maps or walk to school events).
The health department is leading the efforts to achieve the goals of the PHA. In addition, it is the lead agency for the RK Mellon grant and in turn it contracts with ACED who serves as the AAGP program administrator and conducted the selection process in consultation with ACHD. The following criteria was used to assess applications: 1) project consistent with a local plan or Active Allegheny; 2) stakeholder involvement in project; and 3) realistic project budget and timeline. In addition, the following criteria was evaluated for planning applicants: 1) proposed scope of work includes an assessment of pedestrian/bicycle needs; and 2) proposed scope of work includes potential connections to existing transportation systems such as sidewalks or local transit. For design and engineering applicants, the increased opportunity for physical activity in the proposed design and connection to community destinations such as schools and recreational facilities were evaluated. Lastly, the events, education, and outreach category, the following criteria was considered: 1) potential reach and target audience; 2) short and long-term goals identified; 3) activities fall under larger scope of work; and 4) publicity surrounding initiative.
The AAGP seeks to foster a working relationship with the municipalities, with the goal of ensuring that the end product is highly consistent with, and clearly implements, local and County plans. For instance, municipal applicants were encouraged to meet with ACED staff prior to submitting an application. Under grant requirements, preparation of plans and designs will be undertaken by professional planning and/or engineering consultant; ACED encouraged all project sponsors to conduct an open process for selecting a consultant. Additionally, all applicants needed to provide a resolution passed by the municipality(ies) in the application form. A justification and detailed budget of proposed project costs were also taken into consideration. If justification was not sufficient, the ACED requested additional information from the applicant. Finally, program funds were provided on a reimbursement basis.
A total of $196,000 was awarded to fourteen municipalities; monetary amounts ranged from $4,400 to $49,600 (www.livewellallegheny.com/lwa-supports-increased-opportunities). Projects included: Millvale Seavey Road Pedestrian and ADA Project [$15,000]; three OpenStreets events in Etna/Sharpsburg, Carnegie, and East McKeesport [$7,500; $5,000; $5,000 respectively]; a feasibility study to develop a walking/biking route through five different communities [$42,000]; Collier Township Trail Network Map and Guide planning project [$4,400]; Harrison Township Biking/Walking Corridor planning project [$49,600]; Creating Connections for a Healthier Ross [$33,500]; and Wilkins Township Active Transportation Master Plan [$34,000]. In the spring of 2016, RKMF allotted two additional years of grant funding to support Live Well Allegheny initiatives, including the AAGP extending the program to June 2018.
The Richard King Mellon Foundation provided funding for program evaluation consultation with RAND Health. In the first year of the Active Allegheny Grant Program, and with coordination with RAND Health, ACHD outlined process outcomes and designed a data collection system. Through this overarching analytic framework, ACHD is able to collect process measures and lay the groundwork for outcome evaluation data. Over the course of three years of funding, the AAGP will complete a process evaluation and an outcome evaluation. The objectives for the AAGP are outlined below:
1. Increase awareness of Active Allegheny Plan
2. Increase coordination between neighboring low-income/mod-income communities
3. Increase funding for planning/design projects as well as activities promoting healthy living, active transportation modes, physical activity
4. Increase opportunity for communities to obtain funding for construction via state and federal funding programs
5. Provide technical support for municipalities to pursue further funding related to implementation
6. Incentivize municipalities in low-moderate income communities to complete planning projects from the Active Allegheny Plan or a local municipal plan
7. Encourage municipalities to implement Active Allegheny projects, healthy eating and physical activity events, and apply for additional state and local funding
8. Increase access to healthy physical activity opportunities for residents in low-moderate income municipalities
The majority of AAGP objectives were met during the first year of the program. Through the application dissemination, objective 1 increase awareness of Active Allegheny Planâ€ was met. Included in the application was information about the County's active transportation plan and information on how the grant program seeks to implement projects identified in or consistent with Active Allegheny. Simply by reading the application, municipalities were made aware of the plan. The second objective: Increase coordination between neighboring low-income/mod-income communitiesâ€ was met, as evidenced by collaborative applications. Two of nine funded applications were collaborations between multiple municipalities. Etna and Sharpsburg hosted an OpenStreets event together for residents. Braddock, East Pittsburgh, North Braddock, Rankin, and Turtle Creek were awarded funding for a feasibility study to explore the possibility of developing a bike/pedestrian route through the five communities. In addition, objective 3: Increase funding for planning/design projects as well as activities promoting healthy living, active transportation modes, physical activityâ€ was fulfilled by funding two successful OpenStreets events along with mapping of community trails. Another OpenStreets event is planned for Summer 2017 as well. Objective 4: Increase opportunity for communities to obtain funding for construction via state and federal funding programsâ€ and objective 5: Provide technical support for municipalities to pursue further funding related to implementationâ€ were met through the technical support for planning and design projects. After receiving AAGP funding, planning and design projects will receive ongoing technical support, which connects municipalities to additional funding programs for implementation, particularly construction. Objective 6 was to â€˜incentivize low-moderate income communities to complete projects from the Active Allegheny plan.â€ By inviting solely communities with significant percentages of low-moderate income to participate in the program, the AAGP met this objective. Similarly, objective 7: Increase access to healthy physical activity opportunities for residents in low-moderate income municipalitiesâ€ was met since all of the awarded communities serve residents in low-moderate income municipalities.
The primary data sources include the number individuals/communities who received applications, feedback from community stakeholders, and completed applications. These data are collected by the AAGP Program Manager (ACED employee) and communicated to the Live Well Allegheny Program Coordinator (ACHD employee). The AAGP Program Manager is tracking the methods of communication to disseminate the AAGP application, including municipalities emailed and phone calls made. For example, during the first year the AAGP Program Manager documented that all eligible communities were directly emailed the initial round of funding. Additionally, the AAGP Program Manager maintains a log of which communities she has spoken to regarding their application. Through this communication, the AAGP Program Manager is able to gauge how the application was received by potential community applicants. Finally, by collecting applications the AAGP Program Manager gathers data on the feasibility of the application.
Secondary data sources include Allegheny County income data, based on the 2014 American Community Survey. ACED retains a list of municipalities and the percentage of their population that is low-income. The American Community Survey determines the low/moderate income population based on the total population of each municipality. Based on these data, ACED determines which municipalities are eligible to apply for the AAGP.
Performance measures include the calculated reach of the Active Allegheny Grant Program and the progress of each funded project through various municipal efforts. Outcome measures include the completion of the funded projects and the percentage of Active Allegheny projects completed. The reach of the Active Allegheny Grant Program is calculated by the number of eligible communities and the number of applications received by ACED. In Year 1, there were 38 communities and 6 Councils of Government eligible in the first round of funding. Applications were received from three Municipalities. After seeing that the reach of the AAGP was low, ACED opened a second round of funding to municipalities with lower percentages of low-mod income populations. In this round, 89 communities were eligible and ACED received applications representing 16 communities. The calculated reach of AAGP round 1 was 7.89%, whereas the calculated reach of round 2 was 17.98%.
In Year one, fourteen municipalities were funded through nine projects. Moving forward, process outcomes will track the progress of each project based on municipal efforts. These efforts include executive actions passed, contracts executed between ACED and municipalities, invoices for completed work, and funding for implementation. Although the AAGP does not provide implementation funding, the technical assistance provided through ACED can provide access to state and federal grants that fund implementation of active transportation projects and construction.
To measure outcomes of the AAGP, the ACHD and RAND Health team will analyze how many municipalities completed the projects designed through the grant program funding. This outcome will be based on the measures collected throughout the grant making process. Additionally, the projects may be mapped overlaying Allegheny County to visually demonstrate the impact that the AAGP had on the county. Since the Active Allegheny plan demonstrates active transportation projects and the AAGP considers applications' connections to the plan to determine funding, a hopeful outcome of the program is to increase the number of Active Allegheny projects and opportunities for physical activity for Allegheny County residents.
The Active Allegheny Grant Program is credible and valuable for other local health departments because it increases opportunities for physical activity. Since physical activity has been shown to prevent chronic disease, the AAGP presents a collaboration effort with Economic Development entities that is both creative and community informed. By making healthy local opportunities for residents to stay physical activity, local health departments are able to improve the built environment and increase exercise for their residents.
This project is part of a larger Health in All Policies (HiAP) strategy that we are advancing in Allegheny County making health an easier choice for all Allegheny County residents. Integrating HiAP into our work is part of the sustainability of this project going forward. ACHD and ACED have both committed to utilize a HiAP approach in Allegheny County. We are working with municipalities to assist them in implementing policies and projects that will better connect transportation with the health of their community. Some examples include Complete Streets policies, supporting multi-modal transportation, and via the implementation of bike/pedestrian projects. The AAGP is a tool that advances HiAP work and strengthens connection between transportation and public health.
Funding Sustainability/Project Implementation
The intent of the AAGP is to fill the gap between early planning design and project implementation for active transportation projects in Allegheny County to expand opportunities for residents to be physical active to improve their health. One indicator of the success of the AAGP is whether projects that are funded will be implemented (in the example of design/planning projects) or whether they will continue to exist after the funding is spent.
The planning and design funding provided by the AAGP greatly enhances the opportunities for communities to obtain funding for construction through a number of state and federal funding programs. ACED strives to set aside approximately $400,000 to $500,000 for construction of projects proposed through the grant program for three to five years. ACED has been successful creating similar set aside for projects included in other types of County initiatives. There are a variety of funding sources that are available for implementation of Active Allegheny projects and ACED will assist municipalities in accessing implementation funds once design phase is complete. Locally, Allegheny County has the Community Infrastructure Tourism Grant (CITF) Funding Program, which was created with gaming revenue from the local casino. At the state level, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has opened up funding via the Multi-Modal Transportation Fund. PennDOT also administers a federal transportation grant program known as the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). All of these funding sources require advance planning via local or private sources. ACED assists communities to assess the appropriateness of funding programs to obtain funding for realization of their projects.
At the conclusion of the grant funded project, communities are encouraged to continue hosting events, in the case of OpenStreets or other programming, or to identify local funding to implement projects. Additionally, the Live Well Allegheny campaign alerts community participants when grant funding and technical assistance resources are available as part of our ongoing work with Live Well Allegheny communities.
We have learned several lessons from year one of the AAGP that we are using to make changes to the program moving forward.
Encouraging municipalities to work together on applications and transportation projects is one lesson learned. One challenge that we identified in the first grant cycle was the lack of capacity among municipal staff to complete an application. Although the municipalities were informed of the grant program and received the application, only a couple eligible municipalities applied. Despite access to the program and availability of funds, few municipalities in the target communities had staff capacity to complete the application. There were not enough planning staff based in eligible communities to apply. As a result, we decided to widen the eligibility for the second round. With more eligible communities, not only more municipalities able to apply, but collaboration across municipalities increased. Municipalities that are geographically next to each other were able to garner staff capacity to put forth an application. Encouraging multi-municipal cooperation is one way for more advantaged communities to assist disadvantaged communities on active transportation projects. ACED and ACHD developing additional strategies to encourage low-moderate income communities to apply.
Leveraging resources from our region in partnership with regional organizations has had a positive impact on this project and the resources that we are able to offer to Allegheny County municipalities for project implementation. Both ACED and ACHD are work with the Southwestern PA Commission (SPC), which is the metropolitan planning organization representing a ten county region in southwestern PA that encompasses Allegheny County. This regional partnership and cooperation enables us to leverage additional technical assistance resources for Allegheny County municipalities to increase capacity of local municipalities.
The SPC is a member of the Plan for a Healthier Allegheny. One strategy of the PHA that all three organizations are partnering on is, Strategy 2.3.2: Provide resources for design and integration of active, safe, walkable/bike-accessible spaces into neighborhoods.â€ This strategy is in both the Chronic Disease Risk Behavior and Access priority areas of the PHA because of the overlap in impact on health and transportation. One of the activities that is part of this strategy is the development of an Active Transportation online portal that will provide enhanced resources to assist municipalities in the region. SPC has taken primary responsibility for developing and hosting the portal, which will be accessible to Allegheny County municipalities. ACED, ACHD and other partners are providing content and technical guidance. This collaborative is one example of how connecting the larger region is being used to benefit individual municipalities in the development of active transportation.