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Montana Building Active Communities Initiative

Montana Building Active Communities Initiative (BACI)

Built Environment picutre with vegetables and cyclist

The Montana Nutrition and Physical Activity (NAPA) Program’s Building Active Communities Initiative (BACI) is a project that provides in-depth, interactive training, mentoring and ongoing technical assistance, NAPA’s Building Active Communities Initiative supports community-led approaches to develop active and healthy communities.

BACI works to create or enhance community environments so that people of all ages, abilities and income levels can safely walk, bike or take public transportation to places they need to go.

Building Active Communities Initiative (BACI) logo

To learn a little bit more and share this information with others, feel free to download and share this brochure about the Building Active Communities Initiative.

Building the Case for Active Communities

Obesity and sedentary lifestyles are major contributors to chronic disease for both adults and children. In 2015, nearly two-thirds (60%) of Montana adults were overweight or obese and nearly half (42%) did not meet recommendations for aerobic activity (Montana BRFSS, 2015). In the same year, a quarter (25%) of Montana high school students were overweight or obese and 46% of Montana high school students did not get the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity necessary for health and to reduce their risk of chronic disease (Montana YRBS, 2015).

It is clear that the way we design our communities—our buildings, landscapes, streets and neighborhoods—influence the way we live and therefore can affect our health and well-being.  Adopting healthy behaviors, such as physical activity, is easier if our environment is built to support us in making healthy choices.

What is an active community?

An active community is a place where it is easy and safe for people of all ages and abilities to walk, use a wheelchair or assistive device, bike or take public transportation for their everyday routines.  These routines may include walking to school; commuting by bus to work; or doing everyday errands by bike.  It is also a place where children can safely ride their bikes to a nearby park; seniors can stay in their homes as they age and still get around without having to drive; and children with disabilities can play with their friends on inclusive playgrounds and schoolyards built to accommodate everyone’s needs.

Why do we need active communities?

The need for more walkable, active Montana communities is pressing. Local governments, businesses and families are faced with a crisis of rising healthcare costs driven by ever increasing sedentary lifestyles and preventable chronic diseases. Poor access to active transportation and recreation opportunities is putting America’s youngest generation at risk for living shorter and less healthy lifespans than their parents’ generation. At the same time, demand is on the rise for safer and more accessible communities to better serve people with disabilities and the growing numbers of seniors Finally, local leaders are recognizing the economic benefits of safe, walkable, bikeable and accessible communities, including the opportunity to attract new businesses, tourism and a stable, well-paid workforce.

A multi-faceted approach

Local policy decisions governing the built environment (transportation, land use, and community design), influence many aspects of our daily lives:

  • safety and attractiveness of neighborhoods
  • distances people travel for work, school, recreation, shopping, and to reach other destinations
  • transportation and housing options
  • economic and environmental resiliency of the local economy
  • convenience of purchasing (or growing) healthy foods

Building Active Communities Resources

To access the resources below, go to the University of Montana's resources and materials page.

  • Montana Building Active Communities Resource Guide--The Resource Guide contains a menu of strategies that can be used to improve the accessibility of your community for all ages and abilities including children, older adults, people with disabilities and low-income individuals.
  • Montana Building Active Communities Workbook--The Workbook is designed to help community teams think through and make a plan for implementing standards that enable and encourage active living.
  • Montana Active Communities Toolbox--This Toolbox is a set of resources and technical assistance opportunities offered to Montana communities working to create safer and more walkable places.
  • Montana Complete Streets Toolkit for Cities, Small Towns, and Tribal Communities--The Toolkit is a Montana-specific resource for communities as they strive to improve healthy and safe transportation and recreation options.

Built Environment Resources

ChangeLab Solutions provide a wealth of useful resources and tools to help communities build healthier places. One resource that is particularly useful is their document Making Streets Welcoming for Walking.

National Center for Safe Routes to School supports communities, schools and advocates as they work to increase walking and biking to school. They provide many resources including travel surveys to collect data on student walking and biking and parent surveys to better understand parent views. They also provide data analysis and reports.

National Complete Streets Coalition is a comprehensive resource for communities and agencies that are working toward creating a safe, comfortable, integrated transportation network for all users, regardless of age, ability, income, ethnicity, or mode of transportation. In response to frequent requests from Complete Streets supporters, the Coalition has developed materials for communities at every stage in the Complete Streets process.

Montana Rural Health Initiative’s mission is to create a dynamic network linking prevention and community-based wellness programs throughout Montana to stimulate a higher level of wellness across the state. The RHI is managed through the Montana Office of Rural Health and Area Health Education Center (AHEC) at Montana State University. One of NAPA’s BACI staff is housed in this office.

Safe Routes to School National Partnership provides many resources to help encourage more walking and biking to school. They also have a great Safe Routes to School Local Policy Guide.

Sonoran Institute’s Community Builders provides information, research, insight and analysis for developers, realtors, planners, public officials and engaged citizens who are actively building stronger economies in the towns and cities of the American West.

New Mobility West is a partnership between the Sonoran Institute, Community Builders, Project for Public Spaces, Idaho Smart Growth, and Bike Walk Montana. The goal of the project is to help communities improve transportation to create strong and prosperous towns and cities in the West. They provide technical assistance and training opportunities.

Walkable and Livable Communities Institute provides many resources to support communities in their efforts to improve health and well-being through better built environments.

Building Active Communities Success Stories

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion BACI Success Story:

Montana's Active Community Policies

To learn more about the policies and resolutions that have been passed in Montana, please go to the University of Montana's resources and materials page at http://www.umt.edu/sell/cps/baci/Resources%20and%20Materials.php