Issue 5, December 2010

Issue 5, December 2010

Active Living Research News

Grantee Studies

A study published recently by Christina Economos and colleagues identified environmental factors that either supported or prevented active living among children in low-income rural areas.  The authors found that a lack of sidewalks, unpaved roads, and limited destinations for indoor recreation were some of the common barriers.  Opportunities for hiking and the presence of nearby state parks supported physical activity.

People who live within three kilometers of physical activity facilities such as parks and recreation centers are more likely to be moderately to vigorously active than those who don't, according to new research by Janne Boone-Heinonen and colleagues. The authors also found that people who live close to areas with well connected streets were more active as well.

Anna Adachi-Mejia and colleagues recently published an investigation of the relationship between perceived personal barriers (e.g. lack of time or interest) and physical activity among mothers living in rural areas. The study revealed that rural mothers were less likely to be physically active if they feel they have less self-discipline, time or interest, suggesting that they have difficulty prioritizing exercise for themselves.  The findings suggest that interventions aimed at increasing physical activity for mothers could include supporting built environment changes that make opportunities for physical activity easier and more accessible, decreasing personal barriers.

In October, Jason Mendoza and colleagues published a study which found that low-income, mostly Latino and African-American fourth graders in Houston commonly walk or bike to school and that this activity was associated with higher overall levels of moderate to vigorous physical activity.  Most of the students in the study who actively commuted to school did not always follow pedestrian safety guidelines (e.g. looking left-right-left before crossing the street), suggesting that more can be done to make it safe for children to walk and bike to school. Listen to the Houston public radio story about the study here.

Kim Reynolds and colleagues recently evaluated the measurement characteristics of the Research on Urban Trail Environments (ROUTES) Trail Use Questionnaire, which assesses urban trail use, frequency of use, activities done on the trail, reasons for using the trail and method of getting to the trail, among other questions.  Adult users of three urban trails were surveyed and findings indicate that the instrument demonstrated good reliability and validity.

Policy and Practice Impact Spotlight

Elaine Belansky and colleague Nick Cutforth have received a $1.8 million grant from the Colorado Health Foundation (CHF) to implement evidence-based nutrition and physical activity improvements in rural Colorado schools. A major part of the grant will support the San Luis Valley Physical Education Academy, a three-year intervention designed to improve physical education (PE) at all school levels in the 14 San Luis Valley school districts. Improvements will include professional development for PE teachers and principals; equipment and common curriculum materials from research-based physical activity programs like SPARK; a site coordinator who will support teachers and district administrators to elevate the importance of PE; and university-school partnerships enabling schools to incorporate the latest evidence-based PE practices. Dr. Belansky's ALR-funded study evaluating the physical activity component of school wellness policies in Colorado played a significant role in winning the CHF grant.  The earlier study revealed that rural PE teachers face substantial barriers to making program improvements, including professional isolation and inadequate professional development resources.

Announcements and Related News

Robert García, founding director of the Los Angeles-based nonprofit The City Project, has been awarded the prestigious Presidential Citation by the American Public Health Association, recognizing García's work empowering underserved communities throughout California.  A passionate proponent for social justice, "García is an internationally recognized attorney who engages, educates and empowers communities to achieve equal access to public resources, especially public recreational facilities," according to the Citation. American Public Health Association President Carmen R. Nevarez presented the award to García at the APHA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colo., on November 9, 2010. Past recipients of the award include Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Ralph Nader, and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Resources and Publications of Interest

Make the Move is a digital resource to aid in the implementation of the U.S. National Physical Activity Plan.  The Plan's vision is that one day, all Americans will be physically active and will live, work, and play in environments that support regular physical activity. Make the Move provides measurable outcomes and objectives for change, valuable resources, and stories of success to advance physical activity.  After examining how the strategies included in the Plan align with your own efforts to increase physical activity, this online resource makes it easy to share with others by adding information about the Plan to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites; forwarding the entire publication or select pages to colleagues; and accessing other important resources and Web sites.

The Prevention Institute released a new report, Fostering Physical Activity for Children and Youth: Opportunities for a Lifetime of Health. The report, commissioned by the Convergence Partnership, provides background research about the current state of physical activity in the nation and highlights organizational practices and public policies that can increase physical activity among children and youth.  The report serves as a launching pad for action for practitioners and advocates who are interested in engaging in systems and environmental change approaches in schools, early childcare and education settings, out-of-school-time programs and other community settings.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) just completed a 15-year Pedestrian Safety Strategic Plan to address pedestrian safety concerns and equip professionals and other stakeholders with proper knowledge, resources and information needed to identify problems and implement solutions related to the roadway environment. This report will be of interest to engineers, planners, researchers and practitioners who have an interest in implementing pedestrian treatments, as well as city, state and local agency officials who have a responsibility for public safety.

A report released in November, Fast Food FACTS (Food Advertising to Children and Teens Score), is the most comprehensive study of fast-food nutrition and marketing ever conducted.  The report, conducted by Yale's Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, shows that children as young as 2 are seeing more fast-food ads than ever before, and fast-food restaurants rarely offer parents the healthy kids' meal choices.  The study revealed that the fast-food industry spent more than $4.2 billion dollars on marketing and advertising in 2009, focusing extensively on television, the Internet, social media sites and mobile applications. The report was supported in part with a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Newsletter Date: 
Wednesday, December 1, 2010