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CALC Scholarship Feature: Public Health in the Rockies Conference

Hello CALC Community!

My name is Kacie Warner and I’m the Program Manager for the Athmar Park Active Living Coalition. I recently attended the Public Health in the Rockies conference on a CALC scholarship (thank you!), so I wanted to share about the two presentations that I attended.

The first presentation was about youth engagement from staff at Denver Health. They shared about their experiences forming a youth advisory committee with their Community Health Services board of directors. The board of directors were interested in having a young person from the community serve on the board. However, just inserting one young person into a board made up entirely of adults did not seem like it would be the most effective way to incorporate youth perspectives into this work, so Denver Health staff instead proposed forming a separate youth advisory board that would work with the existing board of directors. Since the youth advisory board is in its first pilot year, there are still many elements that will be modified and improved upon. But for now, three youth serve on the board and attend a quarterly board meeting where they have set time on the agenda to engage with the board and DH staff about issues at hand that affect the youth community. So far both the youth advisors and the board have found this collaboration to be a positive two-way communication tool for learning about important issues that affect the health of young people, their families, and communities.

Some take-aways and advice from Denver Health staff about this experience and youth engagement in general:

  • They follow the positive youth development model, which is a collaborative, strengths based approach that focuses on youth-led activities, shared decision making, and open dialogue about social justice and equity.

  • This work takes time, requires dedicated staff time, organizational buy-in, and youth should be compensated for their time and input.

The next presentation that I found relevant to the CALC Community was about older people’s experiences with outdoor spaces. A team from Safe and Healthy Communities created an outdoor livability assessment tool to evaluate how outdoor spaces like parks and green spaces are accommodating the needs of older people (since most parks are designed with the needs of younger people in mind). Even though older people make up more than 20% of the population, they only account for 4% of park users. Maybe some of this discrepancy is due to accessibility issues and can be remedied with more inclusive and intentional design for all users.

These questions were presented as part of the presentation:

What do older people say are their top concerns with usability of outdoor spaces?

  • Personal safety

  • Proximity to home

  • Park activation - Is this space welcoming? Is it being used in positive ways?

  • Convenience of location - Is it accessible by multiple modes of transportation?

  • Navigation - Is there consistent signage? Is it easy to move around the park without potentially getting lost?

What are some best design practices for making outdoor spaces accessible for older people?

  • Accessible benches with backs and armrests

  • Shade

  • Tables that are wheelchair accessible

  • Keeping man-made and natural debris (seeds, pinecones) away from walking paths

  • Accessible bathrooms

  • Accessible parking

  • Contrast in design elements for those with poor eyesight (i.e. a lighter colored walking path against green grass or a lighter colored bench amongst dark foliage)

  • Consist signage throughout the park for navigation

Information about this work and the Outdoor Livability Assessment Tool can be found here, check it out!

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