NACDD’s Walkability Efforts Adapt and Excel During Pandemic

Impact Brief October 2021

Over the last 18 months, the entire NACDD team has worked tirelessly to ensure ongoing implementation of projects to prevent chronic disease and associated risk factors, perform many activities to become a model public health anti-racist organization, and work to integrate racial and disability equity and social and environmental justice in all that we do – all while adapting to the parameters set forth by the COVID-19 pandemic. NACDD’s Walkability Action Institute (WAI) project, with funding support from the CDC Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity (DNPAO), is one example project to have maintained its fidelity through pandemic adaptations and shifting to virtual implementation.

The Walkability Virtual Academy (WVA) was developed as the virtual alternative to the in-person WAI. In the last year, a total of three WVAs were implemented, with one of these being a national seven-month WVA for six local/regional interdisciplinary teams from Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Washington. Two state-based WVAs were implemented in Arkansas and New York over a one-week period, for six rural Arkansas teams and four New York teams, respectively. With each of these, NACDD customized implementation to fit learning needs while maintaining content fidelity to the WAI model and still integrating hands-on applied learning activities. All WVA participants were given the open invitation upon completion of the WVA to join NACDD’s National Walkability Alumni Network.

The virtual academy was a great alternative to being in person if you can’t do a face-to-face academy but also spreading it out over a couple months instead of just one whole week gave time for the teams and then the big group to come together and develop more grounded relationships than just one week might have established.

-2021 WVA Participant

The successful shift from WAI to WVA during the pandemic resulted in NACDD’s ability to add 16 interdisciplinary local/regional teams and two CDC State Physical Activity and Nutrition (SPAN) states to the National Walkability Alumni Network. It also allowed NACDD the opportunity to pilot these implementations alongside CDC to determine if the WVA offering could be plausible as an additional offering for accelerating training and implementation of new policies, systems, and environments for improved walkability, movability, and community and transportation design.

Looking ahead to 2022, NACDD hopes to implement an in-person WAI in the state of Washington, a hybrid in-person/virtual WAI/WVA in the state of Utah, a WVA in the state of Maryland, and hopes to work with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands for modified walkability institute implementation.

If interested in exploring assistance with walkability, movability, and built environment efforts in your state, please reach out to NACDD’s WAI Project Lead Karma E. Harris, MSPH at for ideas on how to customize a WAI/WVA plan to your state’s needs.

The Supporting the Growth of Walkability Action Institutes Across the Country project is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $420,000 with 100 percent funded by CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by CDC/HHS, or the U.S. Government.

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