There has been little research on the impact of environmental factors on physical activity in low-income communities of color. However, stairwell enhancements and signs that encourage stair usage are among the few proven environmental interventions that may be easily implemented in low-resource settings. The purpose of this project was to conduct a pilot study for a culturally targeted social marketing campaign promoting stair use and other physical activities in the Los Angeles CalTrans building, where innovative stair design and restricted elevator access was implemented. Results from the social marketing campaign were compared with the effects of the stairwell enhancements and restricted elevator access on physical activity levels of staff members. Dr. Yancey’s project was an extension of the Active Living Research grant Increasing Physical Activity Through Innovative Stair Design: Evaluating Skip-Stop Elevators Combined with Spacious Stairs, by Dr. Craig Zimring. Items in the social marketing campaign included staff recognitions, stair poster prompts and riser banners, pedometers, daily physical activity breaks, and a promotional website.
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.
Research has begun to focus on the link between access to community food options and food consumption for adults; however few studies have examined the influence of food environments on young children and their families. Due to this lack of research, the purpose of this project was to initiate a pilot study to examine food environments in four predominately African American areas in the South side of Chicago. Future research needs were determined and appropriate methods, analysis, and resources to support a larger investigation in this area were identified. Dr. Odoms-Young’s project was a supplement to Safety and Built Environments Relationship to Children’s Physical Activity: A Pilot Study, another Active Living Research project lead by Principal Investigator Dr. Maryann Mason. An in-depth assessment of availability, cost, and quality of community food options were used to define food environments. Child and family food consumption was assessed using family interviews.
The social and built environment of many minority children living in impoverished neighborhoods frequently fails to support their healthy development. Designing safe outdoor play environments that support children’s physical activity provides a potential mechanism for promoting their healthy development. However, virtually no research exists that examines how children themselves think about and use their neighborhood for physical activity. The goal of this project was to study how neighborhood physical and social processes affect the impact of redeveloped inner-city school playgrounds, known as Learning Landscapes, on children’s physical activity from the perspective of children and their caretakers. This study enriched another Active Living Research project, If They Build It, Will They Come? An Evaluation of the Effects of the Redevelopment of Inner-City School Grounds on the Physical Activity of Children, Principal Investigator Lois Brink. Information about the physical activity opportunities in the Learning Landscapes playgrounds and children’s neighborhoods was collected from students from 3 diverse schools from the main study. Children’s physical activity was assessed using SOPLAY, a direct observation method, aerial photography, children travel behavior diaries, and student focus groups.
Crime and safety levels can serve as potential barriers to outdoor physical activity. This project explored the relationship between actual crime and perceptions of crime in trail neighborhoods and trail use. Using data from local police records, neighborhood resident surveys, and infrared trail monitors, this study was able to add data of crime and disorder to a trail use model of an existing Active Living Research grant, Modeling Urban Greenway Use by Dr. Greg Lindsey. The goal of this project was to enhance the current trail use model and to better inform policy makers and practitioners on how crime-related issues affect trail use and physical activity levels.
This project provided supplemental funds for a study originally funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) focused on obesity and the built environment. This Obesity and the Built Environment (OBE) supplemental grant added to a larger previously funded OBE grant that was a three-year prospective study utilizing multi-level assessments of individuals, families and communities to evaluate the relationship between the built environment and adolescent overweight in 26 communities scattered across Vermont and New Hampshire. Dartmouth College researchers in this supplement expanded the OBE grant to include measures of parent perceptions of the built environment, their motivation to do physical activity, and their perceived barriers to physical activity. Data was collected using common survey measures from the Twin Cities Walking Survey.
This project provided supplemental funds for a study originally funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) focused on obesity and the built environment. This Obesity and the Built Environment (OBE) supplemental grant added to a larger previously funded OBE grant that examined the associations between built environment features and physical activity, diet, and body size in three diverse samples of New York City-area residents. Columbia University researchers in this supplement developed and validated a version of the University of Maryland’s Urban Design Instrument (MUDI) that, rather than relying on in-person canvassing, uses geographic data on the built environment that is routinely collected by New York City governmental agencies. The resulting measures of urban design were added to the OBE-funded analyses of physical activity and obesity, providing an opportunity to test the association between urban design and health outcomes.
This project provided supplemental funds for a study originally funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) focused on obesity and the built environment. This Obesity and the Built Environment (OBE) supplemental grant added to a larger previously funded OBE grant that evaluated the influence of community characteristics and the built environment on adolescent overweight in 26 communities scattered across Vermont and New Hampshire. This supplement expanded the set of observational measures used in the OBE grant to include features from the community level, parks and playgrounds, and trails. Data was collected using observational measures produced from Active Living Research supported projects, including the Irvine Minnesota Inventory, Physical Activity Resource Assessment (PARA) instrument, and the Path Environmental Audit Tool (PEAT). The additional observational measures were meant to support a much wider range of community measures of the built environment than would be possible otherwise.
This project provided supplemental funds for a study originally funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) focused on obesity and the built environment. This Obesity and the Built Environment (OBE) supplemental grant added to a larger previously funded OBE grant that examined the feasibility of obtaining adolescent self-defined neighborhood boundaries via a mapping exercise, test the practicability of having adolescents complete travel diaries to document their travel and utilization behavior, and elicit factors that are important to adolescents in determining utilization, route preference and neighborhood boundaries. This supplement complemented the OBE funded study by adding objective data from a built environment assessment tool (the Physical Activity Resource Assessment (PARA) instrument) and a nutrition environment assessment tool (the Nutrition Environment Measurement Study (NEMS)) to answer the question, “how does quality (objectively measured) and availability of specific amenities or food variety affect physical activity and eating behavior in adolescents?”