GirlTrek | 2018


A movement empowering Black women to walk to reverse the devastating impacts of chronic disease

With backpacks and sneakers on, GirlTrek will train 10,000 frontline activists across the United States to disrupt disease and inspire a new culture of physical activity in their communities.

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The problem

National surveys show that two-thirds of African-American women engage in little to no leisure-time physical activity. The root causes of this include chronic poverty, lack of personal time and cultural norms that value service above self-care, as well as the stress of underemployment and unsafe streets. As a result, 82 percent of African-American women are overweight and 59 percent are obese. They die from preventable diseases at higher rates and younger ages than any other group of women in the US. By 2034, 90 percent of African-American girls will be overweight or obese. Something has to change — and soon.

Big Idea

The solution to this health crisis is simple: daily walking has been proven to ameliorate the risk factors of obesity. GirlTrek, already the largest organization for Black women in the US, will inspire a million African-American women to walk to reverse the devastating impacts of chronic disease. 10,000 of the brightest and most committed of those women will be trained to serve as a new vanguard of public health activists. They will use local rallying power, practical skills and an unwavering sense of purpose to recruit new walkers, eliminate barriers to health and lead local events that set the standard for community revival.

The plan

GirlTrek plans to scale up their training model and boost their impact tenfold, by launching an event inspired by the “tent revivals” and “teach-ins” of the Civil Rights Era. This immersive training experience, “Summer of Selma,” will include three parts: skills training, an inspiring Woodstock-type festival and a 54-mile trek along the iconic Selma-to-Montgomery trail. Newly-trained activists will recruit walkers and lead more than 10,000 weekly walks back at home, providing one-on-one interventions and serving as healthy role models in the highest-need communities in America.

Why will this succeed?

59% of women who take the GirlTrek pledge consistently walk at the life-saving level of 30-minutes a day, five days a week. With more than 160,000 committed walkers, GirlTrek has already trained and certified women from 35 cities to serve as group fitness instructors, nutrition coaches, mental health first aid instructors, outdoor trip leaders and walkability advocates. With national partners like the American Council on Exercise, Sierra Club, Stanford University and National Council for Behavioral Health, GirlTrek has achieved an astounding certification rate of 92 percent. At scale, GirlTrek will pipeline and certify the largest corps of African-American public health professionals in the US.

Project Impact

Recent Updates

Morgan on Harriet Tubman walkMorgan on Harriet Tubman walk

TED Ideas

What we learned from walking in the footsteps of Harriet Tubman

What we learned from walking in the footsteps of Harriet Tubman

In March 2018, activists T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison hiked the path that Harriet Tubman took to freedom nearly 170 years ago. Their journey was both painful and beautiful, demanding and transcendent. Here are lessons from their walk.

January 17, 2019
NowThis GirlTrek walkNowThis GirlTrek walk

NowThis News

GirlTrek walked Underground Railroad to honor Harriet Tubman

GirlTrek walked Underground Railroad to honor Harriet Tubman

GirlTrek is a nonprofit dedicated to improving Black women’s health though walking. Recently, 10 women walked 100 from Maryland to Delaware to pay tribute to Harriet Tubman. The journey ended on Harriet Tubman Day.

March 13, 2018

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