Communities

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The way communities are designed has a great influence on how active we are. When communities are safe, well-maintained and have appealing scenery, children and families are more likely to be active. Unfortunately, many people—especially those at high risk for obesity—live in communities that lack parks and have high crime rates, dangerous traffic patterns and unsafe sidewalks.  Such communities discourage residents from walking, bicycling and playing outside. Increasingly, local governments are considering how community design will impact residents’ physical activity. Our research documents effective strategies for creating communities that support active living and promote health.

View The Role of Communities in Promoting Physical Activity infographic.

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Systematic Observation of Physical Activity using iSOPARC: An iPad Application for Research and Practice, 2015

Date: 
02/22/2015
Description: 

Workshop at the 2015 Active Living Research Annual Conference.

Abstract: 

This two-part workshop focused on data collection in community settings using the direct observation SOPARC (System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities) and provided practice for using iSOPARC – an innovative iPad application for collecting and storing SOPARC data. In addition to standard SOPARC data on physical activity, iSOPARC permits the collection and exportation of photos, and enables the identification, mapping, and spatial area calculation of target areas using the iPad’s GPS technology. Workshop participants learned the basic operation of iSOPARC and how the application can be used for large and small research projects. The first part of the workshop focused on the SOPARC approach for data collection on physical activity an area characteristics, followed by an introduction on the use of the iSOPARC application for iPads. Participants were taught the basic functions of iSOPARC using video examples of various physical activity settings.  Participants experienced real-life data collection using iSOPARC in outdoor settings. Following data collection practice, participants viewed their data in real time by uploading their observations.

Authors: 
Troy Carlton, MS, MBA, North Carolina State University; Thomas McKenzie, PhD, San Diego State University; Luis Suau, PhD, Shaw University
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Engaging the Research Community in Accelerating Policy Change

Description: 

Workshop at the 2015 Active Living Research Annual Conference.

Date: 
02/22/20015
Abstract: 

This training provided an overview of the latest in childhood obesity issue advocacy at the state and community levels as well as provided concrete steps for engagement by researchers who want to connect as advocates.  Specific topics included: 1). Defining advocacy and understanding the role of issue advocacy in building a reversing the childhood obesity epidemic, including how to achieve public health impact through public policy change and the difference between advocacy and lobbying. 2). Introducing Voices for Healthy Kids, including an overview of the approach and policy priorities. 3). Overview of the principles of effective issue advocacy campaigns using the Power Prism® model, including: Research and data collection (small group hands-on activity:  Conducting key informant interviews); Coalition building and maintenance; Grassroots and key contacts; Media advocacy (independent and paired hands-on activity:  developing your persuasive message using the 27-9-3 framework; Key decision-maker advocacy (Pathways of Influence); Fundraising and Development. 4). Discussion on the engagement of the research community in policy change.

Authors: 
Jill Birnbaum, JD, Sally Wong, PhD, RD, CDN, & Debbie Hornor, BA, Voices for Health Kids American Heart Association
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Community Commons: A National Data, Mapping and Reporting Platform to Support Policy Implementation

Date: 
02/22/2015
Description: 

Workshop at the 2015 Active Living Research Annual Conference.

Abstract: 

A wealth of data is readily available from Federal and State Data Warehouses for communities across the United States; however, many organizations often lack the time, expertise, or technological infrastructure to make the best use of data resources for policy implementation. Community Commons, which is an evolving interactive mapping, networking, and learning utility for the broad-based healthy, sustainable, livable communities movement, strives to overcome these constraints by providing easy-to-use, democratized access to data, GIS-generated maps, and reporting tools. This workshop highlighted two Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded Community Commons Hubs: The Childhood Obesity GIS (COGIS) and the Salud America! Growing Healthy Change Hub that includes a policy-mapping tool.

Authors: 
Chris Fulcher, PhD, CARES-University of Missouri; Roxanne Median-Fulcher, JD, Institute for People, Place and Possibility (IP3)
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Getting Them To Listen: Tools for Community and Decision Maker Engagement

Description: 

Workshop at the 2015 Active Living Research Annual Conference.

Date: 
02/22/2015
Abstract: 

Building community champions and getting funding are crucial for change.  In order to do so, both researchers and practitioners must engage all of the stakeholders. This workshop provided a strong overview of many community engagement tools, along with an exercise and action plan outline for helping attendees determine their approach for any given outreach or planning effort. Through small group activity and individual action planning templates, participants learned how to determine best outreach, engagement, and communication strategies given their own particular research or planning efforts. In person participatory, surveying, and web-based interactive methods were reviewed.

Authors: 
Teresa Penbrooke, MAOM, CPRE, North Carolina State University, GP RED, and GreenPlay LLC
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Technology Tools for K-12 Community Use: Cost Calculator

Date: 
02/22/2015
Description: 

Workshop at the 2015 Active Living Research Annual Conference.

Abstract: 

Data about public school facilities and a vision for equitable access to great school environments drives the work of the 21st Century School Fund (21CSF) and the Center for Cities and Schools (CC+S). In this work shop, participants had an opportunity to see how we link the data, analysis, technology tools and policy and practice reforms. Participants worked with one of the tools--the Joint Use Cost Calculator--and with data supporting this tool, and learn how it can affect policy and practice. The workshop begin with a short presentation on the theory of change used and tested over 20 years at the 21CSF; and used and tested at the CC+S over the last 10 years. Following this presentation; participants learned to work with the Joint use Cost Calculator and explored its use in advancing policy and practice change associated with community use of public school buildings and grounds.

Authors: 
Jeff Vincent, PhD, UC Berkeley Center for Cities and Schools
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The Impact of Changes in State Minimum Acreage Policies on School Siting Practices

Date: 
06/01/2014
Description: 

McDonald, N. C., Salvesen, D. A., Kuhlman, H. R., & Combs, T. S. (2014). The Impact of Changes in State Minimum Acreage Policies on School Siting Practices. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 34(2), 169-179.

Abstract: 

Researchers and advocates have linked state guidelines on minimum acreage for schools to the abandonment of historic schools and increased barriers to walking and biking to school. This study examined how the elimination of minimum acreage standards in four states affected school planning processes and outcomes using mixed methods. We found that states changed school acreage policies because of concerns about sprawl and the rising costs of education facilities. However, changes in state acreage policies have not been accompanied by changes in district-level school planning processes and therefore on-the-ground impacts have been minimal in the years immediately after the policy change.

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Making the Case for Designing Active Cities

Date: 
02/15/2015
Description: 

Sallis, J.F., Spoon, C., Cavill, N., Engelberg, J., Gebel, K., Lou, D., Parker, M., Thornton, C.M., Wilson, A., Cutter, C.L., Ding, D. (2015). Making the Case for Designing Active Cities. San Diego, CA: Active Living Research.

A peer-reviewed paper based on this report is available online through open access in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

Abstract: 

Creating "activity-friendly environments" is recommended to promote physical activity, but potential co-benefits of such environments have not been well described. An extensive but non-systematic review of scientific and "gray" literature was conducted to explore a wide range of literature to understand the co-benefits of activity-friendly environments on physical health, mental health, social benefits, safety/injury prevention, environmental sustainability, and economics. Five physical activity settings were defined: parks/trails, urban design, transportation, schools, and workplaces/buildings.

KEY FINDINGS

  • A total of 418 higher-quality findings were summarized based on direction of association and quality of source.
  • The overall summary indicated 22 of 30 setting by outcome combinations showed “strong” evidence of co-benefits.
  • Each setting had strong evidence of at least 3 of the 6 co-benefits, and parks and trails had strong evidence of all 6 co-benefits. Thus, for each setting there are multiple features that can be designed to both facilitate physical activity and produce co-benefits.
  • All five physical activity settings could be designed so they have positive effects on economic outcomes, including increased home value, greater retail activity, reduced health care costs, and improved productivity.
  • Activity-friendly design in all settings had strong evidence of environmental co-benefits based on reduced pollution and carbon emissions.
  • There were many gaps in evidence of co-benefits in the schools and workplace settings as well the health consequences of environments that support active travel.
  • Overall, there was little evidence of negative consequences of activity-friendly environments.

 

IMPLICATIONS

The most important conclusion of this review is that creating communities, transportation systems, schools, and buildings that make physical activity attractive and convenient also produces a wide range of other benefits for communities. Rather than thinking that designing one feature of a transportation system or school is sufficient, we encourage decision-makers and designers to consider how features in all settings can be optimized for physical activity and multiple other benefits. We urge mayors, other city officials, and staff in multiple departments to consult these findings as an aid in decision-making.

DESIGNED TO MOVE: ACTIVE CITIES

The findings from our Making the Case for Designing Active Cities is prominently featured in Designed to Move: Active Cities, a guide for city leaders that provides a comprehensive summary of the evidence base to-date, along with bright spots and specific recommendations for leaders to make any city an active city.

 

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School Gardens and Physical Activity: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Low-Income Elementary Schools

Date: 
12/01/2014
Description: 

Wells, N. M., Myers, B. M., & Henderson, J., Charles R. (2014). School Gardens and Physical Activity: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Low-Income Elementary Schools. Preventive Medicine, 69(Suppl), S27-S33.

Abstract: 

OBJECTIVE: This study examines effects of a school garden intervention on elementary school children's physical activity (PA). Method: Twelve schools in New York were randomly assigned to receive the school garden intervention (n=6) or to the waitlist control group that later received gardens (n=6). PA was measured by self-report survey (Girls Health Enrichment Multi-site Study Activity Questionnaire) (N=227) and accelerometry (N=124, 8 schools) at baseline (Fall 2011) and follow-up (Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013). Direct observation (N = 117, 4 schools) was employed to compare indoor (classroom) and outdoor (garden) PA. Analysis was by general linear mixed models. RESULTS: Survey data indicate garden intervention children's reports of usual sedentary activity decreased from pre-garden baseline to post-garden more than the control group children's (Δ = −.19, p = .001). Accelerometry data reveal that during the school day, children in the garden intervention showed a greater increase in percent of time spent in moderate and moderate-to-vigorous PA from baseline to follow-up than the control group children (Δ = +.58, p = .010; Δ = +1.0, p = .044). Direct observation within-group comparison of children at schools with gardens revealed that children move more and sit less during an outdoor garden-based lesson than during an indoor, classroom-based lesson. CONCLUSION: School gardens show some promise to promote children's PA.

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Walk Score® and Transit Score® and Walking in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis

Date: 
08/01/2013
Description: 

Hirsch, J. A., Moore, K. A., Evenson, K. R., Rodriguez, D. A., & Diez Roux, A. V. (2013). Walk Score® and Transit Score® and Walking in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 45(2), 158-166.

For additional information, this paper is also featured in an animated video.

Abstract: 

BACKGROUND: Walk Score® and Transit Score® are open-source measures of the neighborhood built environment to support walking (“walkability”) and access to transportation. PURPOSE: To investigate associations of Street Smart Walk Score and Transit Score with self-reported transport and leisure walking using data from a large multicity and diverse population-based sample of adults. Methods: Data from a sample of 4552 residents of Baltimore MD, Chicago IL, Forsyth County NC, Los Angeles CA, New York NY, and St. Paul MN from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (2010-2012) were linked to Walk Score and Transit Score (collected in 2012). Logistic and linear regression models estimated ORs of not walking and mean differences in minutes walked, respectively, associated with continuous and categoric Walk Score and Transit Score. All analyses were conducted in 2012. RESULTS: After adjustment for site, key socio-demographic, and health variables, a higher Walk Score was associated with lower odds of not walking for transport and more minutes/week of transport walking. Compared to those in a “walker’s paradise,” lower categories of Walk Score were associated with a linear increase in odds of not transport walking and a decline in minutes of leisure walking. An increase in Transit Score was associated with lower odds of not transport walking or leisure walking, and additional minutes/week of leisure walking. CONCLUSIONS: Walk Score and Transit Score appear to be useful as measures of walkability in analyses of neighborhood effects.

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