Iowa lawmakers passed a bill this week that clarifies liability issues for schools and towns that open up their facilities to the public.

The “community-use” or “shared-use” bill passed on Monday. It must now be signed by the governor before it can become law.

The legislation doesn’t require open schools and town facilities, such as playgrounds, athletic fields and gymnasiums. Instead, it alleviates liability concerns.

The American Heart Association recommends that school districts and communities create shared-use agreements to allow both supervised activities and unsupervised playing to promote physical activity among children and young adults. An AHA statement emphasizes the need for low-income communities to have such agreements.

In the United States, nearly a third of children and teenagers are overweight or obese.  Obesity rates have steadily risen since the 1960s and currently about 35 percent of the nation’s adults are obese. Despite an obesity issue in America, fewer than half of adults and only about a third of children get the recommended amount of physical activity each day.

More than 30 other states have similar shared-use legislation.

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Photo by Amie Vanderford