Shared use agreements

Evidence Rating  
Evidence rating: Some Evidence

Strategies with this rating are likely to work, but further research is needed to confirm effects. These strategies have been tested more than once and results trend positive overall.

Health Factors  
Date last updated

Shared use, joint use, open use, or community use agreements allow public access to existing facilities by defining terms and conditions for sharing the costs and risks associated with expanding a property’s use. Public, private, or nonprofit organizations such as schools, colleges, community and senior centers, government entities in charge of unused or underused public land, faith-based organizations, hospitals, the military, or mixed-use development projects can create shared use agreements to allow community access to their property before or after hours. Shared use agreements can be formal (i.e., based on a written, legal document) or informal (i.e., based on historical practice), and can be tailored to meet community needs1.

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Increased access to places for physical activity

Potential Benefits

Our evidence rating is not based on these outcomes, but these benefits may also be possible:

  • Increased physical activity

  • Increased access to public resources

What does the research say about effectiveness?

There is some evidence that shared use agreements increase opportunities for physical activity2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Such agreements are also a suggested strategy to increase physical activity levels8, 9, 10. However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

By opening facilities to community members and linking youth with physical activity opportunities in school gyms, tracks and fields, community fitness and sports facilities, and parks and playgrounds, shared use agreements increase access to places for physical activity2, 11. Shared use agreements may also increase physical activity levels, especially in communities with low incomes2, 4, 12, 13, 14. Establishing organized physical activity programs along with shared use agreements can substantially increase facilities’ use15; 5, including in rural settings16. Community members’ perceived safety of school grounds is also associated with increased facility use15.

Since these agreements use existing facilities, they are typically a lower cost way to expand programs and services17. In a North Carolina-based study, shared use agreements did not lead to significant increases in school operating costs, although facility maintenance and repairs may be higher over time due to increased use18. In Los Angeles, school districts’ shared use agreements have been associated with small increases in expenditures and very few unanticipated costs11. Common barriers to shared use agreements include concerns about liability, additional costs for maintenance, insurance, and staffing, and issues prioritizing use19, 20; establishing formal shared use partnership agreements may help address such concerns21 although informal or open use agreements may be more manageable, especially for community partners with limited resources22.

California-based research offers seven steps for effective shared use partnership development, which include identifying needs and partners, building relationships and political support in the local community, formalizing partnerships, and monitoring the ongoing communication, progress and impact of the agreement17. Strong shared use agreements may include indemnity and insurance provisions, explicit remedies in case of a breach, comprehensive provisions on the sharing of facilities, and creation of a “Joint Use Committee” to oversee implementation11. Additional outreach may be needed to increase access for community members who are underserved, in addition to school-aged youth22. One study of schools in Ohio suggests informal shared use agreements may be more common than formal agreements; experts recommend organizations that want to establish formal agreements with schools include examples of written agreements, cost management plans, and current research on the connection between physical activity and academic and learning performance to support their proposal21.

Shared use agreements may also increase access to libraries, performance art spaces, social services, and additional meeting, event and activity spaces3. In Los Angeles, neighborhoods within a mile of schools with shared use agreements were more likely to have residents identifying as Hispanic/Latino, and residents with lower incomes or education levels; however, outreach may be needed to increase residents’ awareness and use of facilities23. Experts also suggest promoting comprehensive agreements that cover both indoor and outdoor facilities and expanding shared use agreements in municipalities with small populations, lower education levels, and in the South24.

How could this strategy impact health disparities? This strategy is rated likely to decrease disparities.
Implementation Examples

As of 2014, Arkansas, California, Kansas, and Texas enacted legislation to enable or encourage shared use agreements for school facilities25. The Arkansas Statewide Joint-Use Agreement Grant Program has funded 152 joint use agreements in 60 school districts since it started in 200926.

Many cities, counties, and states use shared use agreements to expand access to places for physical activity, including New York City; Seattle27; Lake Worth, Greenacres, and Palm Springs, Florida28; Fairfax County, Virginia29; Hamilton County, Ohio30; Pitt County, North Carolina31, and California27. The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) have a shared use agreement, and as part of their agreement, the AYSO recruits participants from LAUSD’s attendance zone and provides scholarships for students who lack economic resources11. One study suggests formal shared use agreements are more common in large school districts, urban areas, and in the West compared with the Midwest, South, and Northeast32.

Faith-based organizations across the country are also using shared use agreements to expand access to their recreational facilities and programs, as in North Carolina33.

Implementation Resources

ChangeLab-Shared use - ChangeLab Solutions. Shared use.

AHA-VFHK toolkits - American Heart Association (AHA). Voices for healthy kids (VFHK): Resources and toolkits.

CDC DNPAO-Data - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Nutrition Physical Activity and Obesity (DNPAO). Nutrition, physical activity and obesity: Data, trends and maps online tool.

LHC-Rockeymoore 2014 - Rockeymoore M, Moscetti C, Fountain A. Rural childhood obesity prevention toolkit. Leadership for Healthy Communities (LHC), Center for Global Policy Solutions, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; 2014.

HOST-PA - Healthy Out-of-School Time (HOST) Coalition. Resources: Physical activity (PA).

WeThrive-Toolbox - WeThrive!, Hamilton County Public Health. Toolbox and resources used as part of the WeThrive! initiative.


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1 ChangeLab-Gladstone 2018 - Gladstone E. Shared Use Playbook. ChangeLab Solutions. 2018.

2 NPAP - U.S. National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP). National Physical Activity Plan Alliance (NPAPA); 2016.

3 Vincent 2010 - Vincent JM. Partnerships for joint use: Expanding the use of public school infrastructure to benefit students and communities. Berkeley: Center for Cities & Schools, University of California, Berkeley; 2010.

4 Maddock 2008 - Maddock J, Choy LB, Nett B, McGurk MD, Tamashiro R. Increasing access to places for physical activity through a joint use agreement: A case study in urban Honolulu. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2008;5(3):A91.

5 Lafleur 2013 - Lafleur M, Gonzalez E, Schwarte L, et al. Increasing physical activity in under-resourced communities through school-based, joint-use agreements, Los Angeles County, 2010-2012. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2013;10(6):E89.

6 Slater 2014 - Slater S, Chriqui J, Chaloupka FJ, Johnston L. Joint use policies: Are they related to adolescent behavior? Preventive Medicine. 2014;69:S37-S43.

7 ALR-Shulaker 2015 - Shulaker B, Ownby K. SPARK Parks: Monitoring the implementation and impact of schoolyards-turned-community parks. 2015 Active Living Research (ALR) Annual Conference. 2015.

8 IOM-Government obesity prevention 2009 - Institute of Medicine (IOM), National Research Council (NRC), Committee on Childhood Obesity Prevention Actions for Local Governments. Local government actions to prevent childhood obesity. (Parker L, Burns AC, Sanchez E, eds.). Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press; 2009.

9 TFAH-Levi 2014 - Levi J, Segal L, St. Lauren R, Rayburn J. The state of obesity: Better policies for a healthier America 2014. Washington, D.C.: Trust for America's Health (TFAH); 2014.

10 CDC-Active America - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Creating an active America together.

11 FSUW-Shared use 2014 - Framework for Shared Use Workgroup (FSUW). Building the evidence: Creating a framework for assessing costs and impacts of shared use agreements. Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, ChangeLab Solutions, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Public Health Law Research. 2014.

12 ALR-Spengler 2012 - Spengler JO. Research brief: Promoting physical activity through the shared use of school and community recreational resources. Active Living Research (ALR); 2012.

13 ALR-Disparities 2011 - Active Living Research (ALR). Do all children have places to be active? Disparities in access to physical activity environments in racial and ethnic minority and lower-income communities. Princeton: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF); 2011.

14 CDC-JUA health equity - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Joint use agreements (JUA): Why is this a health equity issue?

15 DeFosset 2016 - DeFosset AR, Gase LN, Gonzalez E, Kuo T. Access to and use of schools for physical activity among adults in Los Angeles County. Health Promotion Practice. 2016;17(3):416-428.

16 Carlton 2017 - Carlton TA, Kanters MA, Bocarro JN, et al. Shared use agreements and leisure time physical activity in North Carolina public schools. Preventive Medicine. 2017;95(2017):S10-S16.

17 Cooper 2008 - Cooper T, Vincent JM. Joint use school partnerships in California: Strategies to enhance schools and communities. Berkeley: Center for Cities & Schools (CC&S), Public Health Law & Policy (PHLP), University of California-Berkeley; 2008.

18 Kanters 2014 - Kanters MA, Bocarro N, Filardo M, et al. Shared use of school facilities with community organizations and afterschool physical activity program participation: A cost-benefit assessment. Journal of School Health. 2014;84(5):302-309.

19 Stasi 2019 - Stasi SM, Spengler JO, Maddock J, McKyer L, Clark H. Shared-use decisions among administrators of physical activity facilities in Pasadena, TX. Health Promotion Practice. 2019:1-8.

20 Turner 2018 - Turner L, Calvert HG, Chaloupka FJ. Barriers to shared use of indoor and outdoor facilities at U.S. elementary schools. Journal of School Health. 2018;88(5):379-387.

21 Chace 2015 - Chace M, Vilvens H. Opening the doors for health: School administrators’ perceived benefits, barriers, and needs related to shared use of school recreational facilities for physical activity. Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 2015;12(7):1017-1022.

22 Stein 2015a - Stein A, Baldyga W, Hilgendorf A, et al. Challenges in promoting joint use agreements: Experiences from community transformation grant awardees in North Carolina, Illinois, and Wisconsin, 2011-2014. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2015;12(E51):1-7.

23 DeFosset 2018 - DeFosset AR, Gase LN, Lu C, Bell R, Kuo T. Distribution, characteristics, and level of community awareness and use of formal shared use sites in Los Angeles. Preventive Medicine. 2018;111(September 2017):163-169.

24 Omura 2017 - Omura JD, Carlson SA, Paul P, et al. Shared use agreements between municipalities and public schools in the United States, 2014. Preventive Medicine. 2017;95:S53-S59.

25 NCSL Winterfeld 2014a - Winterfeld A. State actions to reduce and prevent childhood obesity in schools and communities: Summary and analysis of trends in legislation. National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL); 2014.

26 CDC-JUA spotlight AR - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Increasing physical activity through joint-use agreements spotlight: Arkansas.

27 SRTSNP-Joint use - Safe Routes to School National Partnership (SRTSNP). Shared use of school and community facilities: Addressing childhood obesity through shared school facilities.

28 ALBD-FL joint use - Active Living By Design (ALBD). Resources: Lake Worth, Greenacres, Palm Springs, FL: Creating open space through joint use.

29 CDC-JUA spotlight VA - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Increasing physical activity through joint-use agreements spotlight: Virginia.

30 WeThrive-Community wellness - WeThrive!, Hamilton County Public Health. WeThrive! Community wellness in action.

31 ALBD-Pitt County - Active Living By Design (ALBD). Resources: Pitt County, North Carolina.

32 Everett Jones 2015 - Everett Jones S, Wendel AM. Characteristics of Joint Use Agreements in school districts in the United States: Findings from the school health policies and practices study, 2012. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2015;12:140560.

33 ChangeLab-Congregation shared use 2014 - ChangeLab Solutions, Community & Clinical Connections for Prevention & Health Branch North Carolina Division of Public Health. Congregation to community: Shared use by North Carolina faith-based organizations. 2014.