- Health institutions can provide valuable support and inspiration for the development of innovative public spaces
- Public trails can inspire citizens to make wellness-oriented lifestyle changes and help prevent chronic disease
- Parks can employ innovative programming to signal a city’s dedication to the health of its citizens
The “Medical Mile” employed local artists to create murals, statues, and displays focused on the project’s theme: “Exercise + Smoking Cessation + Better Nutrition” along the Arkansas River Trail’s most prominent section through downtown Little Rock. Key features include a 1,300-foot three-dimensional mural wall, wellness promenade, and “Body-Mind-Spirit” entry plaza. By providing a safe, accessible, and inspiring public space for citizens to exercise, the Medical Mile increases awareness and prevention of obesity and heart disease. The theme also became a rallying point for raising important funds to develop a core section of the 14 mile Arkansas River Trail, which will eventually connect over 24 key tourism destinations, over 5,000 acres of federal, state, and local parkland, as well as housing and commercial developments. Consequently, the Arkansas River Trail has been called “an economic, health, and environmental conservation stimulator” by Mayor Jim Dailey. The Medical Mile’s location in downtown Little Rock’s Riverfront Park not only attracts a vibrant mix of bikers, joggers, skaters, and walkers but also over two million tourists per year- raising awareness on a national and international level.
Program goals/issues addressed
- Raise awareness about obesity and heart disease
- Support the Arkansas Department of Health’s goal to reduce chronic disease by 70%
- Provide a recreational space that inspires healthy lifestyle changes and prevents heart disease and obesity
The Medical Mile was catalyzed by collaboration between the National Park Service Rivers Trails and Conservation Assistance Program, Heart Clinic Arkansas, and Little Rock Parks and Recreation. Eventually, their vision garnered support from over two dozen local physicians, medical practices, hospitals, coalitions and the Arkansas Department of Health to create a public statement about the need to focus national attention on the preventable chronic disease through lifestyle changes.
The fundraising program exceeded its $350,000 goal within three months and eventually raised $2.1 million in two years. This generous support was provided by major hospitals, coalitions, individual physicians and medical practices, and the Arkansas Department of Health.
For more information