Issue 7, June 2011

Issue 7, June 2011

Active Living Research News

Jim Sallis Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Jim Sallis, director of ALR and Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition (PCFSN). The award is given to individuals whose careers have greatly contributed to the advancement or promotion of physical activity, fitness, sports and nutrition-related programs nationwide. Winners are chosen by the members of the President's Council based on the span and scope of an individual's career, the estimated number of lives they have touched, and the impact of their legacy. 

Grantee Studies

A study published by Carolyn Voorhees and colleagues revealed that students who commuted to school using public transit are significantly more active than those who drove or were driven to school.  The project analyzed cross-sectional data collected from mostly African-American adolescents in Baltimore.  Findings indicated that girls who used transit to get to school walked almost four times as much as girls who commuted by car.  The results also showed that although girls who took transit tended to take more walking trips than males who used transit, the girls spent less time being physically active, suggesting that their walking trips may be brief or at a slow pace.

According to research conducted in Tampa and Chicago by Myron Floyd and colleagues, children using parks are more physically active when playing on basketball courts and in open space areas than when using shelter areas, fields, and baseball courts. Results also showed that lower-income children were less active than higher-income children.  The authors concluded that strategies to increase physical activity among children in parks should promote basketball courts, playgrounds, informal activities and free play.

Richard Suminski published a study comparing youth physical activity opportunities and funding sources in lower- and higher-income neighborhoods.  Findings showed that lower-income neighborhoods had more event- (e.g. fun walk/run) or faith-based physical activity settings, and courts, trails/paths, and water-type amenities (e.g. drinking fountains; splash pools). Higher-income neighborhoods had significantly more for-profit businesses offering youth physical activity opportunities. Funding for youth physical activity opportunities in lower-income neighborhoods was more likely to come from donations and government revenue (e.g., taxes), whereas the majority of youth physical activity opportunities in the higher income neighborhoods were supported by for-profit business revenue.  

Policy and Practice Impacts

Mindy Fullilove’s project to examine the development and implementation of an anti-violence coalition in Washington Heights, NY contributed to the coalition’s ability to respond to youth violence issues.  The project team also informed the neighborhood planning process by writing a plan for an active neighborhood.  The plan has been approved by the state and will bring several million dollars to the city for revitalization of transit-oriented walkable neighborhood. As a result of its interest in the project’s findings, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is partnering with the team to produce research and advocacy in the Pittsburgh area.

Renee Kuhlman and David Salvesen are leading an ALR study to explore whether eliminating minimum acreage requirements for school sites results in the development of smaller, more walkable schools.  Through the Helping Johnny Walk to School: Sustaining Communities project, Kuhlman hosted monthly calls to share findings from their ALR study with various organizations.  As a result, one of these organizations, the Preservation Alliance of New Hampshire, brought together legislators, officials from the Department of Education, and those interested in public health, transportation, sustainable land use, and education. This convergence informed New Hampshire’s decision to recommend the renovation of existing schools and better planning coordination in its Climate Action Plan. Additionally, the New Hampshire legislature passed SB 59, which requires school districts to cooperate more closely with municipal officials and to encourage more public participation in the planning process before receiving state dollars. This new law will lead not only to more renovations of older, walkable schools, but also a more thoughtful and inclusive planning process.

Grantee Highlights

Virginia Chomitz presented to the Planning and the Black Community Division of the American Planning Association (APA) at the APA 2011 Annual Meeting on April 10 in Boston.  Chomitz talked about her evaluation of the Shape Up Somerville project—a city wide campaign in Massachusetts to increase daily physical activity and healthy eating through programming, physical infrastructure improvements and policy work.  Chomitz’s study evaluated the physical activity and lifestyle changes associated with the campaign. The evaluation helped to define the needs of the city’s population, help the city make changes and improvements around active living, and inform the 5-year plan on parks and recreation of the Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development.

Michael Kanters testified on the benefits of hockey and organized youth sports at a briefing of the Congressional Hockey Caucus on March 10, 2011.  Kanters presented evidence that organized youth sports can positively impact numerous educational and social outcomes, and id associated with improved self confidence and self-esteem, and higher grades.  Kanters’ testimony concluded with a call to action “to think of sport as an environment that gives our children positive life experiences, physical activity, and the skills for a lifetime of active living and productive citizenship.”

Resources and Publications of Interest

The ALR Literature Database features more than 670 papers examining the relationship between environments and policies on one hand, and physical activity and obesity on the other. The purpose of the searchable database is to make accessible to all detailed information on study characteristics and results, and to improve the use of studies for research and policy purposes. The papers in the database are limited to observational studies with physical activity, obesity or sedentary behaviors as outcomes and environmental or policy correlates. Intervention studies with environmental change as intervention conditions also are included.  The database also includes reviews, qualitative studies and measurement papers, but results are not presented.

The latest Transportation for America (T4America) report, Dangerous by Design, has been released.  It's a reprise of the report released in November 2009 and highlights 10 years of pedestrian fatalities across the US, ranking the worst metropolitan areas.  The report contains a wealth of demographic data by state and shows that seniors, African Americans, American Indians and Latinos are disproportionately represented in all pedestrian deaths. The 2011 report also features the addition of a powerful interactive map displaying every pedestrian fatality over the last ten years by location, including the age and race or ethnicity of each victim. The map includes a Google 'street view' so you can get a first-hand look at the type of road where the fatality occurred.

The Healthy Communities Interest Group (HCIG) of the American Planning Association is a new coalition of planners and non-planners interested in healthy, sustainable communities. The HCIG will address a wide range of issues at the intersection of health and planning, including active living, environmental justice, food systems, health impact assessments, parks and recreation, schools, public and active transportation, and urban design.  You can join the group and participate in the Planning Healthy Communities Forum.  Membership in the American Planning Association is not required for participation.

New research published by Jason Mendoza and colleagues is the first study of its kind to find that walking and biking to school is related to higher levels of physical activity and lower levels of body fatness and obesity among U.S. youth.  The authors conclude that walking and biking to school (i.e. active commuting) could have a significant population-wide impact on increasing physical activity and preventing obesity among young people.

A new book edited by Jennifer A. O'Dea and Michael Eriksen combines health education theory, research, and practice to guide researchers, students, educators, community health workers and practitioners in the prevention of childhood obesity and the promotion of child and adolescent health and well-being. The book includes international chapters examining the different factors in childhood obesity, such as social class and ethnic differences.  The book concludes with the successful outcome of various interventions, demonstrating how the whole school community can collaborate to promote health among young people.

Newsletter Date: 
Wednesday, June 1, 2011