Community Change Agents in Action for Health


By Kelsey Card and Heidi Simon, America Walks

Research shows that, in the United States, half of adults and over half of children do not meet the recommended physical activity guidelines. A low-cost, accessible, and enjoyable way to start to reverse this trend is through an activity all of us already do on a daily basis—walking. America Walks, a national non-profit celebrating it’s 20th anniversary this year, has worked tirelessly to make sure all community members have safe, accessible, and enjoyable places to walk and be physically active. We know that our success stems from the strength of the thousands of community change agents we work with across the United States which is why in 2015 we launched our Community Change Grant program. This program provides funds to catalyze smaller-scale, low-cost projects and programs that increase the prevalence of walking, expand the diversity of people and organizations working to advance walkability, and help to make walking safer, easier, and more fun for all community members.

Now in its third year, the program has supported everything from improvements to the built environment such as new art and improved wayfinding, as well as local events and school engagement projects. This year, 27 community projects are being funded by America Walks and other supporters including partners of the Every Body Walk! Collaborative.

One of the 2017 grantees, Shoals Community Clinic, is no stranger to hosting walking challenges, but nothing has moved the needle quite like this year’s Walk Across Alabama program. Walk Across Alabama’s goal was to challenge participants to set incremental goals in a supportive group setting. These individual goals, to have each person walk 10 miles in 10 weeks, added up to accomplishing the group goal of “A Walk Across Alabama”.

“East to west is roughly 200 miles, north to south about 300 miles… we actually almost doubled both of those so we almost walked across and up and down twice,” says Bonita McCay, Executive Director of Shoals Community Clinic.

McCay cites the cultivation of fun activities, social support, and incentives as being a game-changer for the group’s success in smashing its goals. The program provided evidence-based guidance with wellness, nutritional, and walkability coaching from nearby university students, and free pedometers and journals for tracking daily mileage. Shoals Community Clinic hosted weekly group walks at an indoor track, and partnered with an outdoor hiking group called Fresh Air Family to facilitate beautiful outdoor walks on weekends. Over half the people who registered started with a baseline of less than one day a week of exercise. By the end, everyone was exercising at least once a week.

This is just one example of the hard and necessary work being done by local community change agents across the United States. The passion and creativity of these projects exemplifies the steadfast growth of the walking movement in making walking safer, more accessible, and more fun for all. For more on the inspiring work of the grantees, read the report, released June 5, 2018.

Spread the Word! Share this post with your networks using this sample tweet: Community change agents across the US are taking steps to get their communities on the #walking path. Read about how one group is walking across Alabama with a @americawalks grant on the BAYW blog.


About America Walks

America Walks, a nonprofit national organization, is leading the way in empowering communities to create safe, accessible, and enjoyable walking conditions for all. We provide a voice for walking and walkable communities at the national level, provide strategy, training, and technical assistance to statewide, regional, and local organizations, and support local walking champions across the U.S. To learn more about the organization, visit