Pathways to Health is a cross-sector coalition in Tulsa County, Oklahoma—and a member of Plan4Health Cohort Two. An established leader of healthy communities work, Pathways to Health shares the vision of Plan4Health: improving health and wellness by making the healthy choice the easy choice.
“Plan4Health is a catalyst for Pathways to Health. It is the spring board to get out to the communities, establish shared use practices, and support the bridge between public health and planning,” states Leslie Carroll, Pathways to Health Board Chair.
One component of the Pathways to Health project is focused on increasing opportunities for physical activity. The team has identified shared use agreements as a key strategy for shifting how community members think about play and expanding access to play space and parks in Tulsa. Instead of closing a school gym or playground at the end of the day, residents could use the slides or swings—or participate in evening programming, giving everyone the chance to enjoy local resources.
ChangeLab Solutions outlines the benefits of shared use in five key categories—health, equity, community, education, and economy—noting that: “People everywhere want access to safe and affordable recreational spaces. With shared use, public and private property owners can open underutilized facilities for community use.”
Pathways to Health has started bringing these benefits to Tulsa by mapping places to play in the county. The coalition is working to identify “play deserts”—or places where it is difficult for community members to access safe spaces for physical activity.
By understanding the most vulnerable areas—and pinpointing opportunities to make connections—the coalition is leveraging resources to make healthy choices easier.
“In addition to developing maps, we are continuing our surveys and assessments of local schools in order to identify areas for potential shared use. 48 schools have participated in our survey so far and we have physically assessed more than 120 schools after hours, on the weekends and school breaks. We are hoping to build strong partnerships to make play more accessible in Tulsa,” says Joani Dotson, Tulsa City-County Health Department Program Manager and Plan4Health Project Coordinator.