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In 2017, the State of Iowa had the fifth highest adult obesity rate and the 16th highest youth obesity rate in the United States. Initiated by the Rockefeller Foundation and the former Iowa Governor and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the Newton Community Health Partnership brings together the University of Iowa, Grinnell College, and the City of Newton to identify and implement effective community-based programs and projects to support and promote community health and obesity prevention within Newton.
The pilot phase for the project began during the Fall of 2018 and will continue through the fall of 2019, with the hope to extend the partnership through the support of the Rockefeller Foundation for several years beyond. The project team, comprised of students from the University of Iowa and Grinnell College, led by faculty and staff from both institutions, seeks to examine health and wellness holistically, looking at connections between food and nutrition, the built environment, and exercise and physical activity. Most importantly, the faculty, staff, and students seek to identify the community’s desires and needs through collaboration with key community partners and stakeholders.
Specific project development for this pilot phase has been underway since early January, with one of the outcomes being the development of an active living corridor study project that will be conducted through the fall of 2019. This project seeks to support the significant planning efforts around specific projects that will encourage walking, biking, and general active living in the community.
Existing planning documents including Newton’s city comprehensive plan, bike and pedestrian master plan, connectivity assessments, and DMACC’s Legacy Plaza master plan, among others, reflect Newton’s commitments to community health and well-being. In response to these existing planning efforts and community stakeholder observations of a need for greater network connectivity and active recreation attractions, this project seeks to maximize planning impacts on Newton’s community health and well-being by identifying and assessing specific corridors and areas for prioritized projects and enhancements.
In particular, these assessments will address network connectivity and support for safe, active transportation between key points of interest within Newton including the DMACC campus and Legacy Plaza, downtown, schools, and recreational spaces and recreational physical activities within each of the key points of interest.
The project team, in collaboration with key stakeholders in Newton, will use an inclusive public planning process to examine projects based on community input, in conjunction with what existing research indicates has the greatest effects on community health and well-being.
The final deliverable is a corridor study that identifies and assesses project sites and proposes corridor-specific enhancements including enhancing sidewalk accessibility and connectivity, streetscape improvements, pedestrian safety, park amenities, and aesthetic enhancements that can be submitted to the Rockefeller Foundation and other funding agencies for future funding of project implementation.
Additional projects are currently being developed, so be sure to look out for more updates regarding this exciting partnership!