Engaging Youth in Walkability at Y&G Conference

picture of Liz Lord presenting at conference

Last month YMCA veteran and walkability expert Liz Lord, MPH, PA, engaged teens attending the statewide 32nd Annual NC YMCA Youth & Government Conference in Raleigh at a workshop all about walkability--and how advocacy and policy play a role in increasing walkability to foster more physical activity. 

Lord, who is now the Deputy Healthy Director at the Nash County Health Department, was previously the Senior Engagement Director at the Harrison Family YMCA in Rocky Mount. During her time at the Y, Lord was trained by Mark Fenton, a nationally recognized expert in how to conduct walk audits to engage community and local policymakers in making communities more friendly and safer to walkers and bikers (and those in wheelchairs or strollers too). With this expertise, Lord led several walk audits in Rocky Mount as part of the Alliance’s Healthy Active Communities Grant from YUSA, funded by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. 

 “I’m really excited to have these young ladies as current and future leaders,” Lord said about those who attended the workshop. “They answered and asked questions and were really on point.” 

Lord shared an overview with the teens as to why this work is important, how audits are an effective tool for change, and reviewed one of walk audits the Y had held in Rocky Mount. She also shared recommendations from that audit and what changes were made as a result, and how the mayor and other community leaders were involved. 

“We celebrated that walk audits really work!” Lord said. “We watched a video of a very busy intersection, and then I had them conduct their own audit of that location and discuss what their findings were.  We also watched video about walkability that I hope got them thinking BIG about the effects of walkability locally, nationally, and internationally.” 

Lord noted that one of the Y&G delegates asked how she got the mayor to come to the audit. “I shared that our Y has a good relationship with the mayor, and we called and invited him. I also told them that I imagined their Y/Y staff has those kinds of relationships in their communities and encouraged them to reach out to their Y&G leader, the CEO of their Y, or other Y leadership for assistance connecting with officials in their home communities,” she said..