Presentation at the 2015 Active Living Research Annual Conference.
Population-based approaches are an important response to addressing low levels of physical activity (PA) with strong evidence for environmental-based interventions. Ecological-based models acknowledge and recognise the influence of factors outside the individual when attempting to change PA behaviours and generally exert that interventions are most effective when they change the person, the social environment, built environment and policies. Parks in this context represent an important location in communities for PA, with domains including access, aesthetics and certain characteristics as, facilities, programs and perceptions of safety associated with increased park visits and PA. The ABCD project examined the translation of this evidence to create supportive environments for PA, focusing on the re-design of parks in a community of low socio-economic status in regional Queensland, Australia. The purpose of the project was to engage local residents, living in close proximity to two parks, in the re-design and use of the spaces for increasing no-cost opportunities for physical activity. Baseline data collection, existing evidence and community and stakeholder input shaped the re-design of the two parks for increasing PA. A range of traditional and non-traditional health partners were gathered to oversee project design, implementation and evaluation, including primary health care, local government, university, police, a non-government organisation and the sports sector.
Drawing on Bedimo-Rung, Mowen & Cohen’s (2005) conceptual model and the more recent evidence synthesis published by Active Living Research (2010) the ABCD project developed a community based participatory action research evaluation approach. It was anticipated by adding local preferences for PA to the consideration of park re-designs along with data and evidence, the project would achieve increased levels of community engagement and subsequent increases in park visits and PA. Using a pre-post evaluation design a series of baseline measures were completed (i.e., park audits, park observations, household survey and community engagement) using a series of validated tools (e.g., EAPRS, CPAT and SOPARC). All baseline data, evidence and community and stakeholder input was presented through a ‘design sub-committee’, comprising a Landscape Architect, Parks and Open Space Operational Manager and the ABCD Project Manager, to translate into ‘real-world’ open space designs. Conceptual landscape drawings for the two re-designed parks were approved by the project steering group and construction commenced and concluded during the summer of 2013/14.
Two case studies will be presented outlining the process and outcomes of the project. Park 1 baseline audit indicated the space was accessible, had limited facilities for PA, with overall aesthetics rated as fair with safety concerns highlighted regarding surveillance. Park 2 baseline audit indicated the open space was accessible, had very good surveillance and no facilities or infrastructure for PA. Park 1 baseline observations (n=170) indicated users were mostly adults (51%) and children (35%) with equal gender distribution (females 51%). The main activity was walking (21%), with the majority observed as moderately active (51%) or sedentary (31%). Park 2, baseline observations recorded only two total park visitations. A household survey and open days identified the parks were not designed for the activities residents wanted and there was a lack of information on PA opportunities within the parks. Park re-designs focused on maximising access, infrastructure to support PA, programs and enhancements to improve aesthetics and perceptions of safety. In Park 1 total park visitations increased from 170 at baseline to 562 at follow-up. Paired t-tests revealed that in park 1 (n=168) the average number of people per observation significantly increased.
The ABCD project successfully demonstrated a process of translating evidence for increasing PA, combined with community and stakeholder engagement to achieve the creation of more supportive environments for PA in the park setting in an Australian context. Local stakeholder and resident input into the re-design process assisted in translating and implementing best practice evidence in ways that increased acceptance and subsequent park visits and levels of PA. The involvement of a range of traditional and non-traditional health partners in the project was also critical to the overall success of the project and the project adds further evidence to the generalizability of the evidence for increasing PA in a park setting.
The partnership model the ABCD Project will allow other local government and health authorities to implement a practice-based evidence approach to future park developments.
Bedimo-Rung, A.L., Mowen, A.J., Cohen, D.A., 2005. The significance of parks to physical activity and public health: a conceptual model. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 28, 159-168.
Active Living Research, 2010. Parks, playgrounds and active living: research synthesis. http://activelivingresearch.org/files/Synthesis_Mowen_Feb2010_0.pdf, accessed (7th August, 2014).
Support / Funding Source
Former Australian National Preventive Health Agency (Department of Health).