Montana County Promotes Walking by Creating a Community that is Healthy by Design


73%
More than 7 in 10 adults in Yellowstone County, Montana, are overweight or obese.

47%
Only 47% of the county’s residents meet current physical activity guidelines.

Cross-Sector Coalition
The Healthy by Design coalition uses strategies to make walking part of everyday living.

Complete Streets
The coalition collaborates to make roadways safer for all users: motorists, walkers, transit riders, and bicyclists.

During the past 20 years, obesity increased dramatically in the United States, and rates remain high. In Yellowstone County, Montana, more than 7 in 10 adults (73%) are overweight or obese. This rate is higher than both the state and national average.

Yellowstone County is home to 15% of all Montanans and to Billings, the state’s largest city. Only 47% of the county’s residents get recommended levels of physical activity. Comprehensive community health assessments conducted in 2005 and 2010 show that healthy weight and physical activity rates in the county warrant immediate attention.

To address these problems, Yellowstone County decided to create a community in which all residents can easily access healthy choices in their everyday lives. The Healthy by Design coalitionExternal aims to promote healthy lifestyles through policy, systems, and environmental changes.

One focus of the coalition has been to increase physical activity by creating ways to make walking part of everyday living, such as by building mixed-use developments that offer convenient places to work and shop near home and by improving roadways to accommodate safe travel for walkers and cyclists.

The coalition’s primary goal is to increase the percentage of Yellowstone County residents who are at a healthy weight.

 

What We Did

The Healthy by Design coalition brought together professionals in infrastructure, engineering, economic development, and planning; medical leaders; and a strong network of non-profit and community-action groups. This broad range of partners allowed Healthy by Design to implement strategies across sectors (e.g., worksites, physician offices, schools) and ensured a comprehensive community approach.

Recognizing that it is not a matter of whether the community grows, but rather how it grows, the Healthy by Design initiative collaborated with the City-County Planning and Public Works Departments on community design issues. The coalition conducted a health impact assessment Cdc-pdf[PDF 3.6MB]External to inform the 2008 Yellowstone County/City of Billings Growth Policy, which guides growth and development for the community. Through community education, Healthy by Design collaborated on making roadways safer for all users: motorists, walkers, transit riders, and bicyclists.

What We Accomplished

Healthy by Design, in collaboration with community partners, achieved the following successes:

  • Addition of a community health section to the 2008 Growth Policy Cdc-pdf[PDF 5.7MB]External: the community health section identifies seven public health issues, seven policies to address each issue, and 40 strategies to be implemented to support the policies. Many of the issues, policies, and strategies focus on promoting walking as part of everyday living.
  • Passage of a Complete Streets Policy Cdc-pdf[PDF 1.5MB]External: the policy ensures that Billings will consider every street project an opportunity to build roadways for all users and work to achieve a safe, convenient, and connected multi-modal transportation network.

The Healthy by Design coalition brought together professionals in infrastructure, engineering, economic development, and planning; medical leaders; and a strong network of non-profit and community-action groups. This broad range of partners allowed Healthy by Design to implement strategies across sectors (e.g., worksites, physician offices, schools) and ensured a comprehensive community approach.

What We Learned

Healthy by Design coalition partners learned the importance of involving implementers and the community in community design projects, as well as the benefit of tailoring messages for various audiences:

  • Policy change requires time, effort, and political backing. Any policy passed will require the support of those who are going to implement it.
  • It is essential to have support not only from community leaders but also a wide range of community members. The strong support of respected and diverse partners, including nontraditional health partners such as economic development, has helped ensure the success of Healthy by Design.
  • Every community and audience is different. Messages and strategies should be tailored to meet the needs, interests, and priorities of the community. While Healthy by Design is concerned primarily with health, the full range of community design benefits (e.g., economics, safety) should also be highlighted.

Publication date: 08/14/2012

More Information
For story information, contact
RiverStone Health
Hillary Hanson
Director of Population Health and Deputy Health Officer
Telephone: 406-651-6462
Email: hillary.han@riverstonehealth.org
For product information, contact
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30333
Email: CSTLTSfeedback@cdc.gov

The information in Public Health Practice Stories from the Field was provided by organizations external to CDC. Provision of this information by CDC is for informational purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by the US government or CDC.

Page last reviewed: October 5, 2018