Issue 2, March 2010

Issue 2, March 2010

Active Living Research News

Highlights from the 7th ALR Annual Conference

The seventh Active Living Research Annual Conference, held February 9-11, 2010 in downtown San Diego, was a great success! The conference brought together over 300 researchers, practitioners, policymakers and advocates to present the latest findings on the environmental and policy correlates of physical activity and explore strategies for accelerating progress toward the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s goal of reversing the childhood obesity epidemic by 2015.

Keynote speaker Angela Glover Blackwell, founder and CEO of PolicyLink, discussed the conference theme of Engaging Communities to Create Active Living Environments. Her talk highlighted successful, innovative strategies for engaging disadvantaged communities at highest risk for childhood obesity. Congratulations to Deanna M. Hoelscher and Steven H. Kelder (Director and Co-Director, Michael & Susan Dell Center for Advancement of Healthy Living, University of Texas School of Public Health Austin Regional Campus) for receiving ALR’s third annual Translating Research to Policy Award in recognition of how their research informed the adoption of the CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) program.

KPBS, San Diego’s local National Public Radio affiliate, broadcast a story on the conference.

Research from the Field

Parks, Playgrounds and Active Living Research Synthesis
In this research synthesis, Andy Mowen summarizes the growing body of evidence concerning the role of parks in shaping active lifestyles across a variety of study populations, including children, seniors, lower-income families, specific racial and ethnic groups and other populations at high risk of being inactive. Areas where additional research is needed are also discussed.

Preventive Medicine
Check out the January 2010 special supplement to Preventive Medicine (Vol. 50, Sup.1). ALR sponsored this special issue to highlight some of the papers presented at the sixth annual Active Living Research Conference in February 2009. Several ALR grantee studies are featured in this supplement.

Health Affairs
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently sponsored a special, themed issue of Health Affairs entitled “Child Obesity: The Way Forward.” The issue (Vol. 29, No. 3) features federal, state and local policy approaches that could make the greatest contribution to helping solve the childhood obesity epidemic.

Grantee Studies

Robert Whitaker, a grantee through both ALR and Healthy Eating Research, published a study in March showing that a lack of time, money and knowledge were among the hurdles Head Start program directors face in implementing policies and practices to address obesity. Others included parental and staff cultural beliefs that were inconsistent with preventing obesity, such as the belief that heavier children are healthier.

ALR grantee Andrew Rundle was coauthor of a study published late last year describing measures for five aspects of urban design created using public geographic information systems (GIS) data in New York City. The results show digital sources can be a basis for constructing valid urban design measures, potentially strengthening the connection between urban design and health.

Policy and Practice Impact Spotlight

ALR grantee Jennifer Dill of Portland State University surveyed 164 adults in Portland, Ore, to understand the environmental, psychological, and socio-demographic factors that influence decisions to bicycle. Dill also used GPS to track what kinds of routes cyclists were more likely to use. She and her colleagues found that 49 percent of miles bicycled were on the 8 percent of city streets that contain some type of bicycle infrastructure, such as bike lanes and boulevards, and separate paths.  Women and less experienced cyclists were particularly attracted to bicycle boulevards, which are neighborhood streets with traffic calming features that discourage and slow down motorized traffic. These findings indicate that cyclists were more likely to go out of their way to use the boulevards and separate paths than they were to use bike lanes on busy streets. The study helped convince Portland’s City Council to approve the 2030 Portland Bicycle Plan, which envisions a future in which a quarter of trips are made by bike. According to the City's Bicycle Coordinator, Roger Geller, the findings reinforced the Plan's goal of dramatically increasing the miles of bicycle boulevards, one key to attracting new riders, by providing the evidence that the approach would be successful.

Resources and Publications of Interest

Opening School Grounds to the Community After Hours: A Toolkit for Increasing Physical Activity through Joint Use Agreements
Public Health Law & Policy has just released this toolkit to help communities and school districts work together to develop joint use agreements in order to increase access to recreational facilities on school grounds. Though this toolkit was developed specifically for California jurisdictions, its contents can be applied in states throughout the country.

NYC Active Design Guidelines
These guidelines from the New York City Department of Design and Construction provide architects and urban designers with a manual of strategies for creating healthier buildings, streets, and urban spaces, based on the latest academic research and best practices.

Newsletter Date: 
Monday, March 1, 2010