Gallerani, D.G., Besenyi, G.M., Wilhelm Stanis, S.A., & Kaczynski, A.T. (2017). “We Actually Care and We Want to Make the Parks Better”: A Qualitative Study of Youth Experiences and Perceptions after Conducting Park Audits. Prev Med. 95(Suppl), S109-S114.
This study explored youths' experiences and perceptions about community engagement as a result of participating in a community-based data collection project using paper and mobile technology park environmental audit tools. In July 2014, youth (ages 11–18, n = 50) were recruited to participate in nine focus groups after auditing two parks each using paper, electronic, or both versions of the Community Park Audit Tool in Greenville County, SC. The focus groups explored the youths' experiences participating in the project, changes as a result of participation, suggested uses of park audit data collected, and who should use the tools. Four themes emerged related to youths' project participation experiences: two positive (fun and new experiences) and two negative (uncomfortable/unsafe and travel issues). Changes described as a result of participating in the project fell into four themes: increased awareness, motivation for further action, physical activity benefits, and no change. Additionally, youth had numerous suggestions for utilizing the data collected that were coded into six themes: maintenance & aesthetics, feature/amenity addition, online park information, park rating/review system, fundraising, and organizing community projects. Finally, six themes emerged regarding who the youth felt could use the tools: frequent park visitors, community groups/organizations, parks and recreation professionals, adults, youth, and everyone. This study revealed a wealth of information about youth experiences conducting park audits for community health promotion. Understanding youth attitudes and preferences can help advance youth empowerment and civic engagement efforts to promote individual and community health.