The CommonHealth of Kentucky

A 13-part KET production aimed at improving the health of all Kentuckians by sharing health and wellness projects from across the state that are succeeding in making their communities healthier.

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a project of KET’s Be Well Kentucky initiative

Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky
The CommonHealth of Kentucky is a 2005 KET production. Produced in partnership with the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Step Forward, Erlanger

Kenton County

Step Forward, Erlanger
Northern Kentucky Health Department, 2388 Grandview Ave., Building A, Fort Mitchell, KY 41017, (859) 363-2080

Once upon a time, within the memories of many of our citizens, Americans did many of their daily errands on foot. But sprawl and the trend toward residential-only suburbs reshaped our cities—and our lives—to favor or even require driving. Step Forward, Erlanger is an example of projects around the country that aim to reclaim communities for pedestrians.

Step Forward combines one-on-one efforts to encourage people to get more physical exercise with ambitious government-sponsored projects to make sure that they’ll have safe places to do it. By inventorying how “walkable” Erlanger is and then working together to remove the obstacles identified, the project partners want to restore the option of walking to school, church, work, or the store. The main objective is to fight the epidemic of obesity and thereby improve the health of Kenton Countians. The pleasant side benefits include fostering a feeling of neighborliness and the spirit of community.

The components of Step Forward include

  • “walking school buses”—groups of kids who walk to school together along designated, marked routes, accompanied by a specially trained adult who is certified in CPR and carries a backpack with emergency supplies. Studies have shown that children who walk to school arrive there more alert and ready to start their learning day.
  • a $2.5 million master plan to repair, relocate, and add sidewalks throughout the city. Members of the planning teams got out and hoofed it to identify physical obstructions, areas where lack of ramps make intersections impassable for bikes or wheelchairs, places where sidewalks are too close to busy streets, and other barriers to pedestrian traffic.
  • the Erlanger Walking Club. People are matched with walking buddies who live close and walk at similar speeds, and the entire group meets monthly to share favorite routes and other tips.
  • attention to walkability as new developments are planned. Rather than block after block of residential, commercial, or retail construction, development projects are expected to mix them all together in compact areas that also feature green space and walking paths.

The Step Forward project partners include the Erlanger city government, the Northern Kentucky Health District, Northern Kentucky University, and the Erlanger Church Association as well as the local planning commission, school system, Chamber of Commerce, and public library. Julie Sparks of the Health Department stresses that such broad community participation was key to overcoming reservations and getting the project up and moving. “The city of Erlanger only has about 17,000 residents,” she points out. “So this isn’t a program where you need a big-city budget to invest. It’s about the people, it’s about the partnership, and it’s about wanting to do it.”


600 Cooper Drive, Lexington, KY 40502 (859) 258-7000 (800) 432-0951