JWSK in front of Capitol

Salem Health kickstarts walkability in Salem

Jan 10, 2018

Over the course of two years, Just Walk Salem-Keizer received Salem Health Community Partnership Grants totaling $75,000.

The grassroots network of weekly walking groups was started by Jennifer Carley, an independent nurse practitioner, in 2012 to focus on improving health and fostering community connectedness. The program gives neighbors regular opportunities to walk and talk with one another.

The expectation was that JWSK would use these grant funds to establish and/or foster walking groups, conduct targeted outreach, build bilingual educational components into outreach efforts and build sustainability for itself by establishing partnerships. The outcomes far exceeded expectations, establishing 13 regular coordinated walks and spring boarding numerous other successful projects.

“Just Walk Salem Keizer formed a simple grassroots way to affect the health and wellbeing of our community," says Sharon Heuer, Salem Health director of community benefit. “I’m blown away by what they’ve accomplished. We’re proud to partner with them and are excited to see how far they are able to push the walkability of Salem and Keizer.”

Over the course of the grant (Jan 2015 - Dec 2016), JWSK created a steering committee, hired a full-time coordinator, expanded to 13 coordinated weekly walks in seven different neighborhoods, created a thriving social media presence, built methods of data collection in order to see how well it is accomplishing its mission, and became a volunteer-led, sustained organization.

Other than Salem Health, the major partners of JWSK are Oregon State University Extension Service, Marion County, Salem Leadership Foundation, the City of Salem, WVP Health Authority and its volunteer walk leaders.  

“With the support of a Community Partnership Grant from Salem Health, the steering committee and volunteers worked to expand Just Walk Salem Keizer to neighborhoods throughout the city,” says Tonya Johnson, OSU Extension Service family and community health faculty. “The work that was initially grant-funded is now sustained through volunteers and partner organizations including Oregon State University Extension Service, Salem Leadership Foundation, the City of Salem, Marion County Health Department and Cherriots Trip Choice.”

The JWKS steering committee spent the majority of its time focusing on promoting walking in Salem, while JWSK has also served as a springboard to propel and/or support other projects. These projects include an Intergenerational Walking project, a Walkability Audit Challenge at Hallman Elementary, and the Points of Health WanderWalks mapping project.

“Just Walk Salem Keizer is helping to foster a culture of walking in our community,” says Tonya Johnson, OSU Extension Service family and community health faculty. “So there is more to the story than individual walks and walkers; it’s also about building capacity for healthy neighbors and neighborhoods at the grassroots level.”

In the Intergenerational Walking Project, which JWSK helped coordinate, Stevens Middle School students were paired with senior citizens from Center 50+ to create walking routes, and to facilitate intergenerational sharing and understanding of walkability from each other’s perspective. Students then made walkability presentations to a number of stakeholder groups encouraging safer walking routes for all.

JWSK, in collaboration with Salem Leadership Foundation and parents of Hallman Elementary students, engaged in a Walkability Audit Challenge.  The team used a walkability tool to assess possible walking routes to school and shared their findings at a community celebration. The number one priority parents identified to make the neighborhood safe for walking to and from school was to make sure sidewalks are available and accessible.  

JWSK is also a main partner on the WanderWalks™ Points of Health mapping project, led by Cherriots Trip Choice.  Volunteers map neighborhood assets – referred to as ‘Points of Health’ – that facilitate active living, increased fruit and vegetable consumption, social connections, and preventative medical appointments; as well as places residents can gather to relieve stress.  They then create walking routes to link the points of health together.  At least four neighborhood maps will be printed and disseminated in 2018 (more in future years) to help facilitate walking and promote community health.

The future of JWSK is bright. The forethought of the steering committee, along with partnerships and grants, has made JWSK a sustainable volunteer-led organization.

“I am pleased to witness more and more organizations in Salem and Keizer offering regular opportunities for walking together,” said Jennifer Carley, RN, JWSK founder. “We will support any neighborhood in developing regular or special theme walks and we continue to have a vision of creating community through healthy group activity.”

For more information about Just Walk Salem Keizer, visit www.facebook/justwalksalem, www.justwalksalem.com or drop by for a weekly walk.


Salem Health offers exceptional care to people in and around Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley. It comprises hospitals in Salem and Dallas, a medical group of primary and specialty care providers, plus other affiliated services. Visit us at www.salemhealth.org; “Like” us on www.facebook.com/salemhealth; follow us on Twitter: @salemhealth; and view us at www.youtube.com/salemhealth. More information: Salem Health media relations, available 24/7 at 971-718-3157.

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