Issue 10, December 2011

Issue 10, December 2011

Active Living Research News


Three New Research Syntheses

Do All Children Have Places to Be Active?
Communities that are walkable and have parks and other places to be active can support physical activity among local residents. However, many racial and ethnic minority communities and lower-income neighborhoods lack these features and so do not help people be active. A new ALR synthesis summarizes key research findings and offers recommendations to policymakers and advocates interested in increasing physical activity among those at highest risk for obesity. A fact sheet summarizing key information from this synthesis will be coming soon.

School Policies to Support Physical Education and Physical Activity
Schools are excellent places to help young people be active and they can do so by supporting physical education, physical activity breaks, recess and other activities. This synthesis highlights effective approaches for engaging children in physical activity both during and outside of class time. A fact sheet summarizing key information for this synthesis also is available.

Child-care Settings Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity
The preschool years are an important period for young children to develop healthy eating habits and physical activity behaviors. This synthesis, developed in collaboration with Healthy Eating Research, shares information about how child-care facilities can promote a healthy diet and regular physical activity among preschool children.  It includes findings from some interventions that have successfully led to healthier eating and increased physical activity in child-care settings.

Research Results Summary Slides
ALR has a collection of PowerPoint slides of key research results on a range of topics related to obesity, physical activity and the social and built environments. These slides are intended for use by researchers, scholars, policymakers, community advocates and practitioners. We invite you to explore the collection and freely use any slides in your own presentations.

Grantee Highlight

In recent decades, community development efforts have broadened to include concerns regarding sustainability, economic development, health and quality of life. Policy and environmental strategies that support active living also can advance these new, comprehensive community development concerns by improving health, reducing automobile dependence, and increasing social interaction, quality of life and economic benefits for the community. In addition, successful community development efforts can help build the social and physical infrastructure necessary for active living and reduce health disparities. A recent paper co-written by Xuemei Zhu and Jim Sallis describes how the active living movement can play an important role in comprehensive community development initiatives. The paper, commissioned by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), is intended to help community developers add a public health component to their work and can be used in projects ranging from local economic development to public safety campaigns.

Grantee Publications

How Well Does Walk Score Measure Walkability?
Walk Score® is a free and publicly available website that enables anyone to learn how walkable their neighborhood is simply by typing in an address. Public health practitioners and community advocates are increasingly using Walk Score in promoting walking.  Dustin Duncan published a study that examined how accurately Walk Score measures neighborhood walkability and found that it does provide a valid measure of estimating certain aspects of neighborhood walkability, particularly within one mile of an address.

Improving How We Measure the Built Environment
The Irvine Minnesota Inventory (IMI) was designed to measure how certain features of the built and social environmental (e.g. population density, street pattern, mixed use, pedestrian infrastructure, and a variety of social and economic factors) may encourage physical activity, particularly walking.  Research conducted by Marlon Boarnet assessed how well the IMI measures whether the built and social environments are related to physical activity and walking behavior. The study found that while the IMI provides reliable measurement of urban design features, only some of these features are related to walking.  Based on his findings, Boarnet developed shortened and refined audit tools that can more accurately and reliably predict whether certain environmental features can discourage or encourage walking and other physical activity. 

School Administrators Worry About Legal Risks of Opening School Grounds to the Public
J.O. Spengler
published research showing that the majority of school administrators in underserved communities worry about being sued or experiencing other legal problems if they opened their school facilities to the public for recreational use after school hours.  The findings also showed that administrators believed that stronger legislation is needed to better protect schools from liability for after-hours recreational use.  Even administrators who were familiar with state laws that offer schools limited liability protection were still concerned about such legal issues. The authors conclude that reducing these concerns will be important if schools are to become locations for recreational programs that promote physical activity outside of regular school hours.

Policy and Practice Impacts

Improving School Physical Activity Policies in Puerto Rico
A recent project led by ALR grantee Alex Vigo examined implementation of physical education (PE) and other physical activity policies in Puerto Rico schools. Vigo and his colleagues found that policy implementation was generally poor, resulting in inadequate physical activity facilities and/or equipment, and a lack of PE teachers and funding for PE programs. Vigo and his team shared their findings with local policymakers, teachers and school administrators, making two policy recommendations that were very well-received by legislators and their staff. They suggested allocating a specified percentage (e.g., 5% or more) of each school’s budget to physical education and physical activity programs, and implementing a state law that requires schools to submit an annual or biannual report of their physical activity and education programs.

ALR Informs Policy Agenda on Walking
Forty officials and activists from across the country gathered in Washington, D.C., in November for the State and Local Walking Action Plan meeting. The group America Walks brought together a broad representation of stakeholders to provide input on the plan, which will be used by advocates working to make their communities more walkable. Active Living Research, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Public Health Association are supporting the effort to develop a national policy agenda on walking.


Childhood Obesity Rapid Response Grants from American Heart Association
The American Heart Association has teamed up with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in announcing the Childhood Obesity Rapid Response Fund to fund grants to support state and local public policy campaigns regarding childhood obesity. The mission of these grants is to make effective strategic investments in ongoing state and local campaigns in order to increase public policy impact on healthy weight and active living among children. Grants can target a wide array of childhood obesity policies and should give particular focus to impacting those at greatest risk for obesity. The fund will consider proposals on a rolling basis.

BEAT-Plus Institute is now accepting applications for its 2012 Training
The Built Environment Assessment Training (BEAT-Plus) Institute will be held June 24-29, 2012 in Boston, Mass. The institute will prepare investigators and practitioners to use both observational and self-report measures of nutrition and activity environments and related behavioral assessments through lectures, fieldwork, hands-on skills, group work and individual consultation. For more information and to apply, see the institute’s website. Applications are due February 1, 2012.

Newsletter Date: 
Thursday, December 1, 2011