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FirstHealth of the Carolinas

FirstHealth of the Carolinas, a health care system that primarily serves Moore, Montgomery, Richmond and Hoke counties, proactively works to improve the health of the community by increasing access to care, providing health education programs and promoting healthy lifestyles by improving access to healthy foods and enhancing opportunities for physical activity.

In 2008, FirstHealth convened a group of community partners, including school administrators, Pinehurst Parks and Recreation, and parents, to address the concerns of traffic congestion at Pinehurst Elementary School. As a result of working together, the group established the Pinehurst Walks! initiative, which aims to increase the number of children that can safely walk and bike to and from school. Fit Community funds were used to construct a one-quarter-mile greenway between the school and the nearby Cannon Park and coordinate a weekly walking school bus program to encourage regular trail use. Parents now drop their children off at Cannon Park while adult volunteer supervisors lead “buses” of young pedestrians to school. Students and parents have embraced the new morning commute, and teachers have noticed that children now start the day more alert and ready to learn.

FirstHealth worked with additional community partners to extend the trail around the park and build a .35-mile sidewalk in the adjoining neighborhood, which also connects to an existing greenway trail. This further contributes to students being able to walk to school on a daily basis. Moreover, fifth grade student council members presented results from a walkability audit that they conducted to the Pinehurst Village Council, which demonstrated the potential value of installing a new path that would connect the school to the library and village center. The Council voted to fund the greenway, resulting in another popular connection to the school.

The efforts for the walking school bus have been sustained by the Pinehurst Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA) through the formation of a walking school bus sub-committee. An estimated 100 students walk to school each week.

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