Observations on Observations: Studying How Children Use Parks

Observations on Observations: Studying How Children Use Parks

By: The NC State team (Floyd, Hipp, Marquet, Mazak, Alberico, Huang)

In cities across the country, public parks and playgrounds provide opportunities to increase routine physical activity among children during non-school hours. Because neighborhood parks are widely available and affordable, their potential to encourage children to be more active is particularly important in low-income communities of color. The NC State team for the Physical Activity Research Center (PARC) has been observing, surveying, and objectively quantifying use and physical activity across parks in New York City. NY, and Raleigh and Durham, NC.

Across four months in 2017 our team observed more than 50,000 people using 20 different New York City parks. For consistency we used the System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities, or SOPARC. Parks were observed during the school year (spring) and summer, weekdays and weekends, mornings, afternoons, and early evenings. We did not observe the entirety of each park, but instead pre-selected specific areas heavily used by children and youth (playground equipment, splash pads, basketball courts, etc.). Observations were brief scans of each of these areas once every 15 minutes for 2-3 hours per visit. We noted activity level (sedentary, moderate, or vigorous), gender, age group, race/ethnicity (White, African American, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, and other/unsure. We worked with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and used US Census data to identify parks in lower income neighborhoods with high proportions of either Asian Americans or Latino/Hispanic populations and parks with at least one playground and sports court/fields.

As PARC focuses on kids between 5 and 10 years of age, we want to share our observations on observing children across all these days; 79 unique days in fact. Over 16,500 children were observed during this study. Each momentary scan averaged over 1.5 children per area observed, or 56 children observed per hour. Playgrounds had the most children and there were more in the parks from 6-7pm than any other time (10am, 3pm, 3:30pm). More children were observed in parks during the school year than the summer, and more on weekend observations than weekdays. Areas of the park where organized activities were occurring or were in the shade were more popular than those not organized or in full sun.

Most children were active during the observations (69%). Activity differed little across parks. Non-shaded areas were a little more active than shaded, perhaps accounting for activity on larger sporting courts and fields like soccer and basketball. Swing sets were also high in physical activity with children often vigorously pumping their legs to go higher and higher.

The parks and playgrounds we observed in New York City were well used. Across all visits, children were present over 60% of the momentary scans of playgrounds. Kids ran from playground area to swings to splash areas while parents, guardians, or older siblings sat nearby in the shade. During one observation, a parks staff member brought out bouncy balls, cones, and hula hoops, just setting these in the middle of the playground area. He did not provide instructions, but allowed the children to use the equipment as they wanted. A hula hoop competition ensued in one corner followed by the use of a hula hoop set on cones as a sort of basketball hoop with children running around and throwing the balls toward the hoops while others blocked their shots. Also anecdotally we saw families spending multiple hours in the parks during the summer, especially those parks featuring splash areas for the kids.

In the highly dense environments of New York the space of a park and playground and even the simplest of play equipment kept the parks well used across the four months of observations.

2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) Data Released

2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) Data Released

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided the below highlights from the data on nutrition, physical activity and chronic conditions.

The 2017 YRBSS examines overall trends in 121 health-related behaviors of students in grades 9-12 plus obesity, overweight, and asthma. 

Most high school students are not meeting the recommended guidelines for daily physical activity.

  • Seventy four percent of high school students are not getting 60 minutes or more of physical activity per day.
  • Fifty percent more students are spending three or more hours per day playing video games or spending leisure time on a computer than getting at least one hour of physical activity. This includes using smartphones and tablets but does not include additional time spent watching tv. The prevalence was higher among black (47.2%) and Hispanic (45.4%) than white (40.7%) students.

There is room for improvement in healthy eating for students and large racial disparities exist.

  • There is a slight decrease from 2015 (57.8%) in students that had at least one sports drink the week before the survey, but 52.3% of students had at least one that week.
  • Forty percent of high school students are not eating even one vegetable each day. The prevalence of not having eaten vegetables one or more times per day was higher among black students (50.6%) than Hispanic (43.9%) or white (37.2%) students
  • Not enough students are starting their day ready to learn with only 35.3% of students eating breakfast every day. The prevalence of having daily breakfast was higher for white students (38.1%) than black (28.7%) or Hispanic (31.7%) students.

Obesity and overweight remains high among high school students and racial disparities persist.

  • More than one-third of students had obesity or were overweight (30.4%). The prevalence of obesity or overweight was higher among Hispanic (37.7%) and black (36%) students than white (26.5%) students.
  • Nationwide, 47.1% of students were trying to lose weight. The prevalence of trying to lose weight was higher among Hispanic (55.4%) than white (45.1%) and black (42.3%) students.

A majority of high school students are still not getting enough sleep at night.

  • Seventy-four percent of students are not getting recommended 8 hours of sleep each night.
  • The prevalence of getting 8 or more hours of sleep was higher among 9th-grade (34.8%) than 10th-grade (26.6%), 11th-grade (21.4%), and 12th-grade (17.6%).

Many students come to school with a health condition, like asthma, and they need help managing it.

  • Twenty two and a half percent (22.5%) of students have been diagnosed with asthma by a health care provider.
  • The prevalence of having ever been told by a health care provider that they have asthma was higher among black (29.8%) than white (20.9%) and Hispanic (21.1%) students

Schools have a unique and important role to play in addressing the health-related behaviors of all students. Schools can:

  • Teach and provide students with opportunities to improve their dietary and physical activity behaviors to establish lifelong habits.
  • Provide healthy and enriching alternatives to screen-time (playing video games, watching TV, using smartphones and tablets) through beneficial afterschool options.
  • Support healthy sleep for students by adopting later start times for high school.
  • Support student health, learning and attendance by providing case management and adopting policies to help students manage conditions, like asthma, at school.

View all of the YRBSS results here.

Promoting Physical Activity with Temporary Street Closures

Promoting Physical Activity with Temporary Street Closures

By: Keshia Pollack Porter, PhD, MPH, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Renée Umstattd Meyer, PhD, MCHES, Baylor University, and Amanda Walker, MSRS, Physical Activity Research Center

[Reprinted with permission from Parks & Recreation magazine from its May 2018 issue. Copyright 2018 by the National Recreation and Park Association. Also available online here.]

Parks and playgrounds are a good source of physical activity for kids, but not all kids have access to safe and well-maintained facilities. In fact, lower-income communities and communities of color tend to have less access to quality park and recreation facilities. Research shows that Latinos, African-Americans and lower-income individuals are more likely to live in areas that have fewer park acres per person compared to whites and individuals in higher-income communities. Traffic and crime are also barriers to safe outdoor play and activity in some communities.

The concept of “Play Streets” has emerged as a way to promote outdoor play and physical activity for children in neighborhoods without access to safe, well-maintained parks and playgrounds. Play Streets are temporary street closures that, for a specified time, create safe play spaces. These closures can be recurring or episodic and offer a safe place for children to be physically active without traffic-safety concerns. Banning vehicles from the streets also has the added benefit of improving air quality, as well as enhancing neighborhoods by building partnerships and increasing social cohesion. Thus, Play Streets not only provide places for safe play, but also advance health equity. Play Streets have primarily been implemented in urban areas, so there is a lack of examples and resources for rural communities to use.

Play Streets Case Study

With support from the Physical Activity Research Center (PARC), we selected four rural communities — in Maryland, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Texas — each with a history of hosting community events, to organize and host Play Streets during summer 2017. PARC is a collaboration of internationally recognized faculty from five leading universities — University of California – San Diego, Georgia Institute of Technology, North Carolina State University, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Baylor University — with backgrounds in public health, city planning, behavioral science, and parks and recreation. It is funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as part of a larger effort to build an inclusive Culture of Health across America to ensure that all children have opportunities to grow up at a healthy weight.

The communities received mini-grants to use to purchase equipment for free play, rent equipment and purchase snacks (we encouraged healthy snacks) for four Play Streets during the summer months. We studied how each community implemented the Play Streets, including how they were advertised, available activities and when they were held. We used a popular and valid tool for observing physical activity, called SOPARC (System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities), and pedometers to measure how active kids and adults were at the Play Streets. We also completed a systematic review of the peer-reviewed and “grey” literature to document what we know about Play Streets and their impacts on play for children, physical activity levels and communities.

The literature review evaluated hundreds of documents, and, based on 13 peer-reviewed articles and 36 reports/documents that met our inclusion criteria, we found the following:

  • Play Streets have mainly been implemented in cities and suburban areas.
  • Play Streets were described as safe places for children to play because of reduced traffic and increased supervision.
  • Only a few studies measured physical activity as an outcome.
  • Play Streets strengthen communities and increase social interactions.
  • Some residents complained about traffic detours and noise on the days that Play Streets were held.
  • Some organizations that hosted Play Streets hope they can decrease crime and violence among adolescents.

Preliminary Findings

While we are still in the early stages of analyzing the data from the four communities, our preliminary findings are that Play Streets are a good way to get kids active in rural communities. Each of the Play Streets included a variety of activities using temporary play spaces and equipment, with inflatables being the most popular activity and where children seemed to be most active. We also found that in rural communities, streets are not always the most accessible places for Play Streets to be implemented, considering that there are fewer streets and those streets often are major thoroughfares through town (hence, they cannot be closed to traffic!).

Play Streets in rural areas might actually be more accessible in other public spaces, like fields and/or parking lots. For instance, one community collaborated with its local park and recreation department to identify a location for the Play Streets, which ended up occurring on sections of an underutilized public park, including the parking lot.

We are also learning how each community implemented Play Streets, including the partners they are working with and how limited resources are being creatively combined within these organizations. For example, one community partnered with a summer meals program and hosted the Play Streets at a time that overlapped with when children were picked up for their summer meal. The intentional “coupling” of Play Streets with other community or organization events was consistent across the four communities. This approach allowed organizations not only to capitalize on shared resources, but also to reduce the burden and barrier of suburban sprawl faced by rural residents, who often had to travel via car to attend the Play Streets. We look forward to learning more about the impacts of Play Streets on children and families, in addition to important lessons regarding how communities should organize and run them.

Conclusion

For individuals interested in this method of intervention to promote outdoor play, it is important to know that Play Streets offer an opportunity for safe outdoor play for children, especially in communities that lack safe parks and playgrounds, and/or available and affordable programming opportunities. They are relatively low cost and carry many potential benefits for host organizations, the children who participate and the broader community. Play Streets are a promising intervention strategy that can help communities close gaps in availability of and access to safe places to play and enhance health equity while doing so, especially in areas that have fewer resources and greater challenges to supporting and promoting physical activity and play.

The practicality and low costs of Play Streets also provide a “reachable” solution to address challenges around access and availability of safe play spaces that can simultaneously bring communities together in a meaningful manner not only to support their children, but also to improve community connectedness and capacity, potentially increasing social networks within the community and collective efficacy. In many rural areas, public resources are limited, and the idea of advocating for new parks or even renovating parks or other play areas can be daunting and often unrealistic as an immediate or even long-term solution. Working with communities to understand how to advocate for some of these larger environmental changes remains important; however, Play Streets offer a more attainable, immediate and likely sustainable solution, with potential for broader social impacts and reach.

Keshia Pollack Porter is a Professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. M. Renée Umstattd Meyer is an Associate Professor of Public Health at Baylor University. Amanda Walker is a Research Associate for Active Living Research and the Physical Activity Research Center at the University of California San Diego.

Physical Activity Advocacy Training Among Youth in Lower-Income Racial and Ethnic Minority Communities

Physical Activity Advocacy Training Among Youth in Lower-Income Racial and Ethnic Minority Communities

By: Nisha Botchwey, PhD and Katie O’Connell, MCRP, Georgia Tech School of City and Regional Planning

The panoramic views of the Canadian Rockies offered a spectacular backdrop for conversations led by our Georgia Tech research team about the “Physical Activity Advocacy Training Among Youth in Lower-Income Racial and Ethnic Minority Communities” poster presented at the 2018 Active Living Research Conference (ALR) in Banff in February 2018.

Our work grows out of the Physical Activity Research Center and its goal to create safe and appropriate physical activity spaces for youth with a focus on low resource, ethnic and racial minority youth. The Youth Engagement and Action for Health (YEAH) curriculum was originally designed by the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative to train youth to assess their neighborhoods and develop advocacy plans to promote health promoting changes. Our team modified the curriculum to focus on physical activity and to study the ways advocacy-training can address disparities in lower-income racial and ethnic minority youth. At the time of the conference, there were six completed clubs, located in suburban Virginia around D.C., Los Angeles, Miami, rural north Georgia, and Charlottesville, VA.

We used pre and post survey questions to understand students’ changing perceptions around leadership, physical activity, and healthy schools/communities. The three largest increases were reported in the number of students who felt they were leaders, those that participated in more than 60 minutes of physical activity in the past 7 days, and those who enjoyed talking in front of groups. For example, 37 percent of students felt they were leaders at the start of the project compared with 62 percent at the end. We also found a 23 percent increase in the number of students that felt they could ask others to help make their school/community healthier.

After YEAH site completions, we interviewed adult leaders as well as the decision makers that received presentations from the students. Everyone gave us positive reviews about the project.  One leader thought, “It was a great program that gave interactive lessons about themselves (the youth) and their community”. Another appreciated the students taking their research questions to a higher level as well as to watch them grow, especially around communication skills. One leader was surprised by the students’ enthusiasm for the project.

Given the recent social movements, especially that led by youth, the youth empowerment aspects of the project were received with great enthusiasm. People wanted to know about student motivations and their level of agency in going through the curriculum and targeting a physical activity challenge to solve. They were also interested in bringing YEAH back to their communities and eagerly anticipated a revised curriculum that incorporated lessons from our study.

We now have twenty-six clubs in progress across the U.S. including Miami, Maine, Hawaii, Saipan, and Atlanta. With approximately 300 participants, we will be able to look at our data across ethnicities, ages, geographies, and genders. The YEAH results will be published in academic journals but also converted into resources designed for youth serving organizations to support youth advocacy for physical activity promotion. Long-term, we believe the data gathered around YEAH can help make policy changes. Being at the Mountaintop in Banff allowed us to truly take an extended view of our work and ALR as the “premier venue for policy-relevant research and cross-sector exchange between scientists, practitioners and policy makers on how to create and sustain active living environments” provided a solid foundation and elevated conversations to inspire additional analyses, future research questions and community impact.

Exploring How Play Streets Impact Children’s Physical Activity

Exploring How Play Streets Impact Children’s Physical Activity

By: Keshia Pollack Porter, PhD, MPH, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Renée Umstattd Meyer, PhD, MCHES, Baylor University

Play Streets! Have you heard of them? Well, Play Streets are temporary street closures that allow for an area to be used for physical activity with the earliest of these events dating back to the 1920s. With support from the Physical Activity Research Center (PARC), we have been studying how Play Streets are organized and their impacts on kids, families, and communities in rural settings. To get the word out about our work, in February our team gave three presentations at the 2018 Active Living Research Conference in Banff, Canada and in March two presentations at the 2018 American Academy of Health Behavior Annual Scientific Meeting in Portland, Oregon. Our presentations highlighted initial findings from our study.

What do we know about Play Streets?

Two of our presentations described two systematic reviews of the existing literature regarding Play Streets and their impacts on play for children, physical activity levels, and communities. We examined 13 peer review articles (from 180 abstracts reviewed in the academic literature) that met inclusion criteria for the review. Six of these studies were from the U.S. and 10 out of the 13 studies did not measure physical activity outcomes. We also reviewed the non-academic literature on Play Streets. The 36 documents that we reviewed (out of 247 documents) were from the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and Chile. Nearly all (34 out of the 36 documents) did not measure physical activity outcomes.

The main findings from the literature include:

  • While most of the documents that we reviewed did not measure physical activity, Play Streets were described as safe places for children to play because of reduced traffic and increased supervision.
  • Games, activities, and equipment were provided for children at Play Streets, most commonly including cycling, dancing, and walking.
  • Play Streets strengthen communities and increase social interactions.
  • Some residents complained about traffic detours and noise from Play Streets events.
  • Some organizations hope that Play Streets can decrease crime and violence among adolescents.

What do we know about Play Streets in rural communities?

Our other presentations examined how Play Streets impact the physical activity of youth in rural communities. We were excited for these preliminary findings because they are from the first ever investigation of Play Streets in rural communities. In our study, four different rural communities received mini-grants to each host 4 Play Streets during the summer of 2017. We used a popular and valid tool for observing physical activity called SOPARC (System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities). SOPARC has mainly been used to observe physical activity in permanent spaces such as parks, and we adapted it to temporary spaces, which are the essence of Play Streets.  Most notable about the use of SOPARC for Play Streets was that during the course of a Play Street, spaces had the potential to appear and/or disappear depending on how children were using the different areas! We are still analyzing these data, but what we have seen so far, is that across the 350+ children who wore pedometers at the Play Streets, another way to measure physical activity, many of them were active at the Play Street.

Based on existing literature, Play Streets seem to have positive impacts on children’s opportunities for general play and their physical activity levels, as well as on community safety and relations. Our data also suggest that Play Streets are a good way to get kids active in rural communities. We look forward to learning more about the impacts of Play Streets on children and families, in addition to important lessons regarding how communities should organize and run them.

Active Living Champion Dr. James F. Sallis Receives 2018 Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award

Jim Sallis Wins 2018 Fries Health Education Award

Congrats to PARC’s co-Director Jim Sallis on his recent award! Dr. Sallis is co-PI on our UC San Diego project examining summertime physical activity patterns in diverse, lower-income adolescent populations.

The below press release is reprinted from the CDC Foundation website

James F. Sallis, PhD, a distinguished professor emeritus of family medicine and public health at the University of California San Diego and professorial fellow at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, today was presented the 2018 Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award. This year’s award was presented to Sallis at the 69th Annual Meeting of the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE). The CDC Foundation with the James F. and Sarah T. Fries Foundation honored Sallis for building an interdisciplinary field of active living research, identifying solutions to the global problem of physical inactivity and translating research findings from the built environment into action.

The Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award, first presented in 1992, recognizes a health educator who has made a substantial contribution to advancing the field of health education or health promotion through research, program development or program delivery.

For 15 years Sallis directed the Active Living Research program for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which support research and promotes activity-friendly communities. His primary research interests are promoting physical activity and providing evidence to guide policy and environmental strategies to improve physical activity, sedentary behavior, nutrition, and obesity, with an emphasis on youth. His health improvement programs have been studied and used in health care settings, schools, universities and companies.

“Dr. Sallis has devoted his career to the study of physical activity and his research has led to more healthful environments and more active lifestyles,” said Lawrence Green, DrPH, ScD (Hon), Chair, James F. and Sarah T. Fries Foundation Board of Directors. “We are grateful for his work in advocating for more active-friendly environments and honored to present him with the Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award.”

In the United States, the vast majority of adults do not meet the physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes per week. Inactive lifestyles put most adults at risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, numerous cancers, osteoporosis and psychological disorders. Physical activity can be effective in managing all phases of chronic disease. Research suggests that sprawling cities, often obligating residents to drive frequently, offer fewer opportunities than compact urban areas for walking or biking.

As a pioneer in the active living research field, Sallis has developed critical evidence about the role of built and social environments in shaping physical activity patterns. His work has contributed to movements such as Complete Street Policies, which encourage a safe, comfortable, integrated transportation network for all users, the Urban Land Institute’s Building Healthy Places Initiative, the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ standards for pedestrian and bicycle-oriented streets, and the American Institute of Architects’ Design and Health Initiative. These initiatives have influenced city planning and transportation policies and decision making that have led to improvements in health and more accessible, safer physical activity options.

Sallis developed intervention programs in school and community settings, including the award-winning SPARK (Sports Play and Active Recreation for Kids) physical activity program that has led to increased activity among more than 1.5 million kids at school. SPARK creates, implements and evaluates programs to improve health and lifelong wellness.

He launched the International Physical Activity and Environment Network (IPEN) with the goal to stimulate collaborative research in physical activity and the environment, develop common methods and measures, mentor researchers, and bring together data from multiple countries for joint analyses. Approximately 20 countries from all continents are currently engaged in collaborative studies.

Sallis is the author of more than 700 scientific publications and one of the world’s most cited social science authors. He has received numerous recognitions including the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition Lifetime Achievement Award and TIME’s designation as an “obesity warrior.”

The Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award was named in memory of Elizabeth Fries, who was a professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University and co-director of the Massey Cancer Center Outreach Program. She made many important contributions to program development, implementation and evaluation. The Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award recipients receive a $25,000 prize. The award and lecture have been presented annually at the SOPHE conference, which draws approximately 900 health education researchers, faculty, practitioners and students for the latest research and practice in health education. Founded in 1950, SOPHE’s mission is to provide global leadership in health promotion and to promote the health of society.

The James F. and Sarah T. Fries Foundation is a nonprofit corporation incorporated in 1991. The mission of the Foundation is to identify and honor individuals, organizations or institutions that have made great contributions to the health of the public. The Foundation seeks to reward accomplishment rather than promise, practicality rather than theory.

The CDC Foundation is honored to partner with the James F. and Sarah T. Fries Foundation, which established and funds the award. As of 2016, the CDC Foundation manages and administers the Fries Foundation’s public health award programs, which include the Fries Prize for Improving Health and the Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award.

Anna Kim Wins 2018 Dale Prize

Anna Kim Wins 2018 Dale Prize

Congrats to PARC’s Anna Kim on her recent award! Dr. Kim is co-PI on our Georgia Tech project which assesses how training youth to be advocates for changes in the built environment can foster health and produce positive policy and environmental change.

The below announcement is reprinted from the Georgia Tech School of City and Regional Planning website.

Atlanta, GA
Georgia Tech School of City and Regional Planning Assistant Professor Anna Kim was announced the Scholar Prize winner for the 2018 William R. and June Dale Prize for Excellence in Urban and Regional Planning. This year’s award theme was on planning with immigrants in communities and regions.

Kim’s research examines the blurred boundaries between informal and formal jobs for low wage immigrant workers, and how these semi-formal employment arrangements translate into strategies for local economic growth in ethnic neighborhoods. Her studio course projects include work in the greater Atlanta area and supports efforts to understand immigrant communities.

“I am honored to receive the Dale Prize in Planning Excellence. To have received the prize in recognition of my research and on-the-ground practice of ’planning with immigrant communities and regions’ is wonderful, and it’s exciting to see broader recognition of this in our field. Recently, my studio graduate students were also awarded by the Georgia Planning Association for our work with refugees in Clarkston, and I’m proud to see how passionate planners are about planning with and for diverse communities and making sure that all voices are heard,” said Kim.

The Dale Prize is awarded by California State Polytechnic University, Pomona’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning and invites recipients to meet with students and to speak at a two-day colloquium held on campus.

Value of the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research

Value of the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research

-Jim Sallis, Co-Director of PARC

The National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) has been a leading force in the field since 2009. A successful example of public-private partnership among the main federal and foundation funders of health research, NCCOR has coordinated funding of studies, development of resources, capacity building, and dissemination of results. As presented in new papers in American Journal of Preventive Medicine, NCCOR has many accomplishments that have advanced research and provided assistance to practitioners.

I have had the pleasure of serving on the National Expert Scientific Panel since the beginning of NCCOR, so I am not a disinterested observer. However, I have been impressed by the level of collaboration among the funders, their openness to input, and the creativity of their projects. I was pleased to provide a commentary on the impact of NCCOR over the first eight years. It is likely that many people actively involved in childhood obesity work are not aware of the full range of NCCOR’s projects and resources. I commend this special section to everyone looking for solutions to the childhood obesity epidemic. Many of the resources will also be relevant to anyone working on physical activity and healthy eating in any population.

Welcome to the Physical Activity Research Center’s Website

Welcome to the Physical Activity Research Center’s Website

We are very excited to welcome you to our website for the Physical Activity Research Center, or PARC, as we like to call ourselves.

PARC is a collaboration of four leading universities funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to build the evidence base for policy changes and practices that will help make physical activity part of everyday life for all American children, with a special focus on children who typically have fewer opportunities to be active.

On the PARC website, you’ll find project profiles on the four main studies of PARC as well as on several commissioned studies that are intended to help address the evidence needs of physical activity advocates who are transforming communities across the nation to make it easier for everyone to be active. Please check back often to find updates on each of the studies or follow PARC on social media.

Our site also provides the PARC research agenda, which was produced in 2016 with input from experts across many sectors and disciplines and is the basis for the four main PARC studies. In the Spring of 2018 we’ll be updating the research agenda in the hopes that researchers, advocates, and funders may be encouraged to generate new studies to help address the epidemic of physical inactivity among our youth as well as inequitable access to physical activity. If you’d like to contribute to updating the research agenda, please contact the PARC Coordinating Center.

Later in 2018, research results from all the studies initiated under PARC will be available. We’re planning an array of communication resources that include not only research briefs, but infographics, toolkits, and helpful resources from community partners. Our blog will also provide timely updates on each of the studies, so please subscribe to the PARC mailing list at the bottom of this page.

We often get the question if PARC is the new name for Active Living Research (ALR).  The answer is NO. But research is the backbone of both programs and an important part of the public debate about how to maintain healthy environments for kids and families. The difference is that PARC is focused on conducting research, specifically on children. ALR, a leading resource for physical activity and the built environment, is focused more broadly on all populations. Today, ALR no longer generates new research, but does continue to share resources from a variety of collaborators.

For all of us at PARC, there is no greater joy than seeing kids being physically active in all kinds of settings. We know the benefits are many-fold and we look forward to connecting with you to ensure that all kids have access to opportunities to move.

Nisha Botchwey and Jim Sallis
Co-Directors of PARC