Alliance for a Better Community and Importance of Joint Use

Healthy Spaces, Healthy People: Creating Safe Environments Through Shared Use

Photo Credit: The City Project on flickr

In 2010, the Department of Public Health and Human Services, through Communities Putting Prevention to Work, awarded the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) $15.9 million to address the rising obesity epidemic. LACDPH’s Renew Environments for Nutrition, Exercise & Wellness in Los Angeles County (RENEW LAC) has taken a comprehensive approach to reform health through local initiatives to address the policies, systems, and environment in which communities work, live, and play.

Changing the landscape of the built environment has been key to addressing its disproportionate impacts on the health of disadvantaged communities of color. Los Angeles is ranked last in the amount of open space available for recreation and physical activity among all major cities, with only 1.1 acres of open space for every 1,000 residents, with certain areas in Los Angeles having access to less.  Funded by the LACDPH, the Alliance for a Better Community (ABC) has developed the Joint Use Generating Activity & Recreation (JUGAR) project to increase physical activity among youth and families to decrease the prevalence of obesity.

Watch a great overview of the program in this video:

Due to limited open and safe green spaces available to many communities, ABC has partnered with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to strengthen shared use policies and procedures to increase access to school facilities for recreation in the two demonstration communities of Pico Union and Boyle Heights – chosen as important Latino neighborhoods that, together, represent a diversity of conditions found throughout the County.

Shared Use: The opening of safe and convenient school facilities during non-school hours for the community to use for recreation and physical activity.

Students at the Mendez Learning Center. Photo Credit: CM Jose Huizar on flickr

In its efforts to impact systems change for sustainable healthy communities, ABC and its partner organizations have worked closely with LAUSD to develop policy recommendations that will strengthen and streamline the procedures necessary to increase community access to safe spaces on school campuses. In June, the updated 2011 Principal’s Handbook: A guide for principals to successfully operate a school was released by LAUSD and now includes information for principals on how to properly support joint use partnerships on school campuses. The inclusion of this section was is a big win on the part of ABC and its partners as we continue to work to streamline the shared use process within LAUSD.

Jameeca and Carol's from the Advancement Project and Alliance for a Better Community at John H. Liechty middle shool

ABC has selected four pilot school sites each in Boyle Heights and Pico Union: Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez Learning Center, Utah Street Elementary, Academic Leadership Community (a small learning community at Miguel Contreras), and John Liechty Middle School to facilitate successful partnerships using shared use. School leadership has worked closely with ABC to help identify the needs of their community as well as the opportunities for expansion. Each of these schools will pilot their own physical activity project in Fall 2011 and will learn how to best address the obesity issue plaguing these communities.

From policy to practice, the JUGAR project has identified best practices and will set the precedent for future development of shared use agreements within LAUSD to ensure that community needs are prioritized. Changing the built environment through greater access to resources through the school system will ensure that all communities have the opportunity to thrive and live healthy lives.

For more information on the JUGAR project or the effects of the built environment on community health, please visit the Alliance for a Better Community or contact Martha Cortes, Health Policy Coordinator, at

A huge thanks to Martha Cortes who provided us with this fantastic write-up. If you’d like us to feature your program on our blog – we’d love to. Email us at and let’s get connected!

2 Responses to Alliance for a Better Community and Importance of Joint Use

  1. Farah Herbal says:

    very inspiring … thanks.. 🙂

  2. jessicamsrts says:

    Hi Farah – Yay – glad it was. We all need some positive stories – and ABC’s leadership on Joint Use is definitely a good one!

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