Presentation at the 2014 Active Living Research Annual Conference.
Background and Purpose
Significant disparities in physical activity and sedentariness are observed across demographic factors, including race/ethnicity and gender. Only 25 percent of urban minority youth achieve the daily PA recommendation, and only 48 percent of boys and 35 percent of girls (aged 6-11) obtain 60 minutes of daily PA, with rates declining to 12 percent of boys and just over 3 percent of girls by ages 12-15. The recent Institute of Medicine report, “Accelerating the Progress in Obesity Prevention” has recommended making schools a focal point for obesity prevention. This focus includes increasing physical activity opportunities before, during and after school hours. As part of this strategy there has been a call to increase joint use or shared use agreements between local communities and school districts. Many communities, especially those with populations at high risk for obesity, lack recreational facilities and the implementation of joint use agreements is one possible policy solution to provide access to recreational space in these park poor neighborhoods. Research examining the impact of joint use agreements (JUA) on physical activity is limited, but studies show that children with access to existing/renovated school recreational facilities outside of regular school hours are more likely to be active. However, policy strategies are needed to not only increase physical activity, but decrease sedentary activity among youth. Most school districts have JUAs that address recreational use of school facilities, but most of these policies contain vague language or limit the types of shared use and facilities that are available to the public during non-school hours and most assign priority use to school-affiliated groups.
The presentation will examine whether stronger, or more specific JUAs are associated with increased physical activity, as well as decreased sedentary behavior in a national sample of adolescents. To our knowledge, this will be the first national study to examine the association between stronger joint use agreements and adolescent activity behavior.
In 2010 and 2011 data on daily physical activity, sports participation (both school and non-school-based/sponsored), and sedentary behavior (T.V., computer, internet, and other electronic media use) were taken from annual cross-sectional nationally representative samples of 8th, 10th and 12th grade public school students in the US. A total sample of 311 school enrollment zones and 35,000 students were included in the analysis. Two JUA scales were constructed using information obtained from hard copies of corresponding school district JUAs and associated JU-related policies. The scales included provision specifying: 1) what groups had access to school facilities; 2) when they could use the facilities; and, 3) what facilities could be used. The first scale gave priority for facility use to school-based programs and the second one to community organizations (e.g., park and recreation departments, YMCAs, etc.). Multivariate analyses were conducted, controlling for youth and community demographic and socioeconomic characteristics and clustering at the school level. Analyses were also conducted controlling for participation in school-sponsored intramural and extramural sports, as well as the availability of park and recreation department-sponsored and private instructional school physical activity opportunities.
Preliminary results showed more specific JUAs, giving priority to either schools or community organizations, were associated with decreased sedentary behavior in adolescents (OR 0.869, CI 0.78, 0.96). JUAs were also associated with an increase in the odds of black adolescents moving from being physically active for at least one hour daily 3 days a week to 4 days a week (OR 1.45, CI 1.15, 1.81). Finally, JUAs specifying that community (vs. school) organizations had priority use of facilities outside school hours were negatively associated with school-based sports participation among females students (OR 0.89, CI 0.82, 0.98), even after controlling for school and community-based availability of physical activity opportunities.
This study provides some of the first initial evidence of the association between joint use policies and adolescent physical activity and sedentary behavior. Results suggest that JUAs can have a positive impact on reducing sedentary behavior and increasing physical activity in certain sub-populations. However, results of this study also suggest that specific provisions in the JUAs could have unintended negative consequences on physical activity opportunities for females; a vulnerable group that has lower levels of physical activity than males, and is in need of creative community-wide strategies to increase activity and reduce sedentary behavior. One possible explanation for these results may be that when community groups have priority use of school facilities, a substitution effect occurs with fewer school-sponsored female sports opportunities being offered.
Implications for Practice and Policy
Results suggest more research is needed to determine the impact, and potential harmful effects more specific JUA provisions may have on vulnerable sub-populations of youth.
Support / Funding Source
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.