Wheeling Walks Training Manual

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Chapter 5:
Nurturing Vital Community Partnerships:
Creating a Supportive Walking Environment
Recruiting Participants
Keeping Participants/Community Informed
Developing a Speakers Bureau

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Creating a Supportive Walking Environment

A supportive social environment is a key component of a well-designed walking campaign. It is necessary to form partnerships with community groups, organizations, businesses, and facilities to promote walking throughout the community. 

Recreational Partnerships

It is beneficial to partner with groups and organizations that have a commitment to the health and well-being of the community.  Because of their health-related focus, many community groups and organizations will support and participate in health promotion activities, like a walking campaign.  These partnerships can provide leadership to the campaign and assist with eventual community ownership. 

A walking club is a valuable resource. The club can provide campaign credibility, increase membership in your campaign, and assist with event planning and implementation.  In addition, they can provide insurance coverage for events and organizational tools, such as newsletters.  In Wheeling, the Ohio Valley Runners’/ Walkers’ Club provided the leadership and resources needed to create a supportive walking environment for the campaign. 

To recruit partners, send a recruitment letter to identified organizations. Inform the organization of the campaign goals, the campaign message and the strategies to accomplish the goals. In addition, outline how their organization can assist with and benefit from the campaign.  (See Appendix 5A and 5B for sample recruitment letters.)

Organizational Partnerships

Partnering with both local and national organizations can assist in creating a supportive walking environment.  Organizations such as the local health department and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society can lend credibility to the campaign and assist by providing resources, volunteers and access to additional participants. 

Encourage organizations to support your campaign by pointing out the benefits to their organization.

  • Increases awareness of their organization.  Invite them to display banners and educational materials at your events.
  • Promotes their events.  List their events, which promote walking, on any calendars you create. Offer to inform campaign participants about their upcoming event.
  • Promotes their program. Introduce organization representatives and recognize the organization at your events.

Note:  Encourage organizations to publicly endorse your campaign. Ask them to sign an Endorsement Letter. (See Appendix 5C for a Model Endorsement Letter.)

National Group Endorsements:  Affiliate your campaign with local chapters of national health organizations. For example: the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society promote walking as part of their initiatives. These organizations are will likely endorse your community walking programs. In addition, they can provide educational materials, resources and potential speakers for your events. 

Local Community Endorsements: Affiliate your campaign with and gain support from local community organizations and businesses.  Community buy-in is the key to a successful campaign. (See Appendix 4A for a list of local supporters (endorsers) for the WHEELING WALKS campaign.)

Recruiting Participants

 Involving the Whole Community

It is important to involve the whole community in the public relations and public health events of your campaign.  Involving the whole community will increase awareness about and increase participation in your campaign.

Even though WHEELING WALKS targeted the 50-65 year-old population, we took steps to ensure the rest of the community was involved.  A crowd attracts more media attention; and the media coverage reaches many more people with the message than the public health event alone. Even though we targeted walking among 50-65 year old Wheeling residents, our data suggest that overall physical activity increased for all ages.

Community organizations, local civic organizations, worksites, health departments, social service offices, and senior centers are excellent people resources.  These organizations provide opportunities to inform individuals about and involve them in the campaign.

Community organizations serve multiple religious, political, cultural, economic, and social functions.  Many have a commitment to promote the well-being of the community and their members.  Health-promotion programs fit into that established goal.  In addition, many invite outside speakers to their meetings to make presentations about a wide-range of issues, including health issues.  Others have newsletters that could publish articles about walking. Programs in community organizations also may help the campaign reach groups who are often underserved by traditional health-promotion programs, such as low-income or multicultural groups.

To inform the community about the WHEELING WALKS campaign, we sent an initial contact letter and a Calendar of Events to all civic and community organizations, worksites, health departments, social service offices, senior centers, and other community and social organizations.  A list of these organizations can be obtained from the local Chamber of Commerce.  (See Appendix 5F for the Initial Scheduling Letter to Organizations and Appendix 4A for a Calendar of Events).

 Note:  It is important to contact groups that include your target population.  These contacts will help you establish your volunteer network.


Targeting multiple levels of the social structure

Directing your intervention toward areas of the community where you can gather the most willing participants will enhance participation and lend ownership of the campaign to the community.

Individuals: Individual participants can be found at sites where walking is accessible.   For example, you may find elderly and physically challenged walkers in areas where the terrain is flat and insusceptible to weather change.  Other ideas for recruiting individuals follow.

Older Adults/Senior Centers: When targeting an older population, as the WHEELING WALKS program did, contact the director of the local Senior Center. The seniors can be valuable sources of information and assistance.  For example: The WHEELING WALKS campaign partnered with the Ohio County Senior Center and included its members in event planning. 

Note:  Providing a speaker and a short walk at a senior center serves to inform participants and change their behavior at the same time.

Middle-Age Adults: Middle-age people are busy with children, work, and social obligations and tend to neglect their health.  By targeting worksites, civic and faith-based organizations, the middle-age population can be informed about the walking campaign and the benefits of walking.
          This group can act as volunteers for public health events and assist in researching the target population (50-65 years of age).  Middle-age adults often encourage the older adults in their lives, like aging-parents, to participate in healthy activities. 

Young Adults: Develop a relationship with the local schools. School buildings can be a great place to walk.  Walking comes easy for young adults and their presence at public health events boosts the community’s enthusiasm.

  • Universities, colleges, and technical schools can provide volunteers for your public health events.  For example:  Nursing students can take blood pressures before and after the walk.  Although a blood pressure check may not be necessary, it is often appreciated and sought-after by people who want to see the effects of their efforts.
  • High school students can increase the attendance at public health events.  Schedule events that are convenient for high school students to attend.  For example:  Schedule and event around a Physical Education class.  Most teachers are highly receptive to inviting an informative speaker to the classroom.  
  • Sports teams can also increase attendance and add enthusiasm to walking events.  Their distinctive clothing makes them highly visible.  For example:  At the WHEELING WALKS Mayor’s Walking Cup, held at lunch time, a local school brought their various sports teams.  The teams made up a large contingent of walkers and wore distinctive clothing that gave the walk a “team” spirit.  

Hospitals: Hospitals can help increase the number of older participants.  Ask hospital staff to encourage their clients to participate in the campaign.  In addition, ask the administration to encourage hospital employees to get involved.

Shopping malls:  Many shopping malls have established walking programs.   Contact the mall Marketing Director to discuss the media-based walking campaign and ways to get their walking program participants involved.  If your community mall does not have a walking program, contact the Marketing Director to recommend one. We were able to move some planned mall activities to a date that helped us communicate our campaign message (Thank you, Ohio Valley Mall!) 

Faith-based and civic organizations:  These community organizations usually have many older adult members who are active in their community.  These members can act as participants in the campaign and as volunteers for the public health events.  Faith-based ministries are growing in importance for health promotion. (See Chapter 11 for further details.)

Weight loss groups: Weight loss groups are good sources for participants.  Because walking can be adapted for anyone, even those who are obese, weight-loss groups should be embraced. Contact local groups and offer to provide a speaker and information packets for their members.  Stress the fact that 30-minutes a day can be done in three 10-minute segments and even those who consider themselves overweight and out of shape can walk with minimal risk. Although 10 minutes of daily walking represents 5 lbs. of weight per year, the studies show that generally a person needs to walk one hour per day to lose weight.

People with Medical Conditions: Even people with medical problems can walk. People who have arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, and heart disease all benefit from walking. Contact local hospitals and clinics and offer to provide a speaker for their support groups.  Walking is so easy and so universal that almost every group can benefit from 30minutes of walking on almost every day.

People with Disabilities:  Walking is good for all people and should be encouraged for groups that can sometimes be left out.   Contact the local Multiple Sclerosis Society and disability centers to urge their members to participate in the campaign.  Many people with disabilities can be part of the walking campaign. 

Note:  It is important to make sure that all correspondence and education materials address the needs of people with disabilities.  It is also important to plan events on trails that are handicap accessible. 

Groups

A local walking group, like the Ohio Valley Runners’/Walkers’ Club in Wheeling, can assist in recruiting a large number of walkers.  These dedicated individuals are generally not only committed to walking for their own health, but are often interested in increasing the number of walkers in their group and community.

Organizations

Organizations such as the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and the March of Dimes provide an avenue for recruiting walkers.  These organizations hold large community walks and are often willing to assist with a walking campaign.  Support from these organizations can also leads to better press coverage, which is what this campaign is all about.

Community

Explore all divisions within the community to find walkers and campaign support.  In Wheeling, Wheeling Park High School, the Ohio County Commission, the Mayor and the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department were instrumental in providing walkers for our events and for giving support and credibility to the campaign.

Keeping Participants and the Community Informed

It is very important to inform your participants about the importance and benefits of walking.  Aim to make walking part of the participants’ life. Keep your message and strategies simple.  Encourage participants to enjoy walking and take pleasure in the health benefits of walking.

Informational Tools

 Walking facts and tips sheets:  Fact Sheets and Tip Sheets are excellent tools for informing and instructing walkers about the benefits of and proper techniques for walking. Have these sheets available at walking events, meetings, public activities and on a website.  

Items that can be used to introduce the campaign to participants:

  • one-page flyer that explains the basic nature of the campaign.  (See Appendix 4A for a sample flyer.)
  • morbidity and mortality statistics for the local area. These can be easily accessed through the internet and give credibility to the walking campaign.
  • TIPS for Walking sheets that describe a walking program and give instructions on getting started and keeping motivated. (See Appendix 5E for a walking program packet.)
  • information sheet(s) about the benefits of a walking program. (See Appendix 5E)

Presentations:  Offer presentations and workshops.  Presentations and workshops are excellent ways for walkers to gather more in-depth information and learn “hands-on” techniques.  In addition, campaign presentations provide an opportunity for attracting media coverage of the campaign, and thus can help communicate your message with a wider audience.  Invite speakers to provide 1-hour presentations on walking and other healthy lifestyle choices. 

Website:  An invaluable tool.  See Chapter 8.

Developing a Speakers Bureau

 Recruiting health professionals to the Speakers Bureau

Recruit individual health professionals or members of local health organizations to serve on the Speakers Bureau.  Appropriate members might include physicians, nurses, health educators, local American Cancer Society or American Heart Association volunteers or professionals, worksite-wellness directors, or other local or state health department professionals.  If there is a college or university in your community, faculty and students in nursing, health education, wellness, or other health-related programs might be good candidates for the Speakers Bureau.  Develop a list of organizations from which you can recruit speakers.  Identify a representative at each organization.  Contact representatives and explain the goals and structure of the campaign and the role of the Speakers Bureau.  Be sure to discuss the importance of walking to health and why the campaign focuses on walking.  Also explain that it is a short-term project that will not require an extended commitment from the organization or its members.  Ask if the representative could act as a liaison between the campaign and organization members or how best to approach members about the Speakers Bureau.  For example, you could give a presentation about the campaign at an organization meeting to help recruit members to the Speakers Bureau.

Once you have identified a number of potential members for the Speakers Bureau, send a letter inviting them to join the campaign and attend an orientation session. (See Appendix 5F)  It is important to follow up on invitation letters with phone calls to recruit a sufficient number of speakers.  The total number of speakers needed depends on the breadth of your campaign, but invite more people than you think you need.  Be sure to explain how the campaign can benefit them personally as well as professionally.

Orientation/training

The members of the Speakers Bureau should be trained by campaign staff to ensure that they understand the goals and messages of the campaign.  Orientation also will enhance the consistency of messages in campaign programming.  It may be most effective to hold several orientation sessions, to make it easier for health professionals to fit an orientation session into their busy schedules. 

Compile and bring to the session a list of worksites, civic organizations, schools, churches, and other groups to which speakers could give presentations.  Ask speakers to review the list and add other sites to help ensure the list is complete.  At the end of the orientation session, encourage speakers to decide at which organizations they will try to set up presentations.

Encourage each speaker to give at least two presentations during the campaign to ensure that presentations are given to a large enough number of organizations, without asking for too large a commitment from speakers. (See Appendix 5G for an outline of an orientation session.)

Presentations

Presentations should discuss the importance of walking to health and the benefits of walking.  They should motivate the audience to start walking.  (See Appendix 5H for a sample training/presentation packet.)

Tracking presentations

The local campaign coordinator should keep track of the organizations that are being targeted for presentations and those for which presentations are scheduled.  The local campaign coordinator should ensure that:

  • important organizations are reached,
  • only one speaker is pursuing each organization,
  • each speaker is successful in scheduling at least two presentations,
  • interested organizations are matched with a member of the Speakers Bureau, and
  • presentations occur within the scheduled time period of the campaign.

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