What is VIVA Connects?

VIVA Connects is a network of community coalitions and partners sharing evidence-based information and resources to increase physical activity in rural New Mexico. These resources include strategies, ideas, contacts, examples, and lessons learned. The University of New Mexico’s Prevention Research Center (PRC), funded by the Center for Disease Control, oversees the project. We have a multidisciplinary team with skills in project evaluation, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), public relations, graphic design, community engagement and outreach, health education, and more. There are more than thirty communities in the VIVA Connects Network. Other partners include the Department of Health, county health councils, US Forest Service, National Park Service, and numerous non-profit organizations.

History

In 2007, the PRC began meeting with a group of concerned citizens (Step Into Cuba alliance) in Cuba, New Mexico to develop what later became Village Interventions and Venues for Activity (VIVA). The purpose of VIVA was to assist the Alliance in the adaptation, implementation, and evaluation of evidence-based strategies for increasing physical activity. At the request of other New Mexico communities, VIVA-Step Into Cuba is now focusing on sharing what we and others have learned. We have combined this evidence-based approach with our experiences in Cuba and sharing this with other communities across the state – the VIVA Connects Network.

Forming Alliances

VIVA Connects is a platform where you can connect with other successful community coalitions and alliances. These groups can share strategies for building and maintaining sustainable coalitions, and promoting places and programs that promote physical activity and healthy living.

Community Consultations

Prevention Research Center (PRC) staff can meet with leaders in your community to discuss ways to increase physical activity. We want to hear about adaptation of evidence-based recommendations and interventions that you’ve already tried and why they were or weren’t successful. We can also bring in ideas from other communities and from the latest academic research.

Technical Assistance

We provide technical assistance to communities implementing evidence-based strategies to increase physical activity. This can include designing maps or signs, conducting a walkability assessment, or connecting you with outside expertise such as land managers, landscape architects, transportation planners, and other useful resources.

Funding

While VIVA Connects does not provide funding itself, we can share information on grants and other funding opportunities. Most recently, the Department of Health Comprehensive Cancer Division, in partnership with the PRC, has funded two community projects. The PRC can also assist with preparing grant applications and connect you with organizations who have had success with a particular funder in the past.

Surveying and Evaluation

Quantitative and qualitative research at the PRC have worked with communities to develop surveys and evaluation that measure the effectiveness of interventions. For example, how many people walk on the new trail in your community? How many people would walk more if there were better sidewalks? Our team can also help to analyze the data from these surveys and turn it into usable information.

Toolkit

The VIVA Connects Toolkit is a collection of modules promoting physical activity that are specific to the unique nature of rural New Mexico communities. The PRC developed these modules in response to frequent requests for technical assistance. There are examples on topics such as building sustainable trails, writing press releases, or developing a passport program to encourage trail use. The toolkit is constantly growing as more communities share what they are learning about what it takes to encourage rural residents to promote physical activity in rural communities.

Community Pages

We work with community coalitions to build Community Profiles for each VIVA Connects community. These pages feature maps, photos, physical activity statistics, and a narrative about the community and their work to increase physical activity.

News & Events

Through our news and events pages, we can share important information from your community. This could be news about a grant that your community received to print walking guides, an invitation to an upcoming community hike, or news about a new sidewalk or hiking trail in your town.

Trails across New Mexico App

The Trails across New Mexico App puts VIVA Connects communities’ walking trails and paths in the palm of your hand. It displays paths for people of all abilities, parking information, trail maps and distances, information about access, lighting, and surfacing, and even shows you where you can walk with your dog.

Listserv

If you’d like to stay on top of news, events, research, conferences, and funding opportunities, join our ListServ by sending an email to prc@salud.unm.edu with the subject like “I want to join the ListServ.” We send notices on the ListServ about once a week, and we only send things that are relevant to rural New Mexican communities.