Research Agenda

PARC Research Agenda


The PARC research agenda was generated with input from diverse stakeholders to identify important initial and future research studies to promote and ensure healthy weight and healthy levels of physical activity for at-risk youth.

Free, open access to a peer-reviewed publication outlining the final PARC research agenda is available: 

Botchwey NB, et al. Policy and practice-relevant youth Physical Activity Research Center agendaJ Phys Act Health. 2018; 15: 626-634.

Below is a broader list of research questions generated from our input process. Studies conducted by the PARC research team are noted. We encourage other research, practice and advocacy collaborations to undertake these studies to accelerate the application of research into practice.

PARC Research Agenda


  1. How do different race/ethnic groups use parks/trails to be physically active, especially children? What is role of programming and promotion?
    The PARC North Carolina State University team is leading this study.
  2. What is the role of parks and recreation centers in summer time physical activity, especially when connected with summer meals programs in parks? How can these programs address youth physical activity while families pick up meals?
  3. How much do parks/trails contribute to overall physical activity in children? How does activity levels vary by income and race/ethnicity? What is role of park facilities/quality and programming?
  4. Research related to the equitable distribution of park systems, including quality and maintenance.
  5. Assessments of park master plans. How are they developed and implemented? What is the emphasis on equity?
  6. What impact can small scale interventions (for example, tactical urbansim) in park attributes and quality encourage physical activity? Can small scale interventions help park planners build capacity for grant seeking and community advocacy?
  7. What is the role of street trees? How are they perceived/valued in diverse communities?

Transportation, Land Use, Urban Design, and Communities Setting

  1. How do Play Streets promote physical activity in elementary and middle school-aged kids, among different racial/ethnic groups living in low income rural communities? Does offering rural communities mini-grants help to create culturally-relevant Play Streets targeted to low income children?
    The PARC Johns Hopkins and Baylor team is leading this study.
  2. What kind of training can support the use of middle school students to be advocates for physical activity in their communities? How does advocacy curriculum impact youth abilities to advocate for physical activity and related policy, systems and environmental change across racial and ethnic groups in urban and rural communities? How does this impact physical activity levels?
    The PARC Georgia Tech team is leading this study.
  3. Research related to safe routes to parks and safe routes to school.
  4. What level of variable standards exist within Complete Streets policies? Conduct an inventory or comparison of policies across urban and rural settings. Assess equity of implementation of Complete Streets policies that have been previously adopted.
  5. Improve evaluation methods of Open Streets events. What are decision making factors that affect access of routes to low income communities?
  6. What is the feasibility of active design of school buildings for low-resource school districts?

Out-of-School Time

  1. Which settings (hospitals, park programming, etc) provide the best opportunity to engage and reach high-risk children in need of summer care? What is the impact of year round schools on physical activity during the summer months?
  2. Compare states with and without physical activity requirements in Quality Rating Improvement Systems (QRIS). What is impact on children’s physical activity? What is needed to get physical activity included in QRIS?
  3. Evaluation of California’s DASH legislation to understand how regulations are implemented and barriers to implementation.
  4. What are the barriers, facilitators, and opportunities regarding screen time and physical activity standards in afterschool programs and other out-of-school time enrichment opportunities?
  5. Process evaluation of mini-grants to low capacity and low-income institutions to promote physical activity to build capacity and test smaller interventions.
  6. Evaluation of shared use programming, facilities and safety concerns in disadvantaged communities.
  7. What does the distribution of out-of-school time resources look like for youth based on proximity and access (ie, transportation)?
  8. What are equitable afterschool policies for provision of resources to youth? What are potential barriers and motivators?
  9. Evaluation of the National Recreation and Park Association’s Commit to Health What are best practices? Compare equity of implementation across voluntary and regulatory approaches.
  10. What is the role of culturally relevant programs in out-of-school time?

Pregnancy and Maternal Health

  1. What are the patterns of use of exercise prescriptions for pregnant women and new mothers within the health system?
  2. Will targeting pregnant women with a healthy lifestyle approach (regarding importance of physical activity during pregnancy, after birth, and mother with child) improve the health of the mother and the infant?
  3. What drives women to be healthier? Which change agents are most influential? What is most important to focus on during pregnancy: increasing physical activity, focusing on excessive weight gain, or focus on healthy child/healthy birth?
  4. Document the interest of women in physical activity during pregnancy. Evaluate the impact of surveys of pregnant women on health care providers and leaders/educators. What is the impact of the information on willingness to put this information into residency training and continuing education?
  5. What are the opportunities to reach pregnant women, given that it’s the first trimester that matters the most? Survey of OB-GYN.

Infant, Child, and Adolescent Development (including School Setting)

  1. Which settings have the greatest potential to increase the physical activity of middle school-aged children during the summer months and school year?
    The PARC UCSD team is leading this study.
  2. Does adding quality ratings around physical activity and Early Childhood Education (ECE) increase pre-school children’s physical activity? What is the process for getting quality ratings on the agenda of ECE settings?
  3. What is the efficacy of health impact assessments and other policy-relevant tools on the scale-up of evidence-based interventions in Tribal communities?
  4. What are the incentives and mechanisms that can be used to lead to more shared use and physical activity in urban and rural communities?
  5. Document disparities across racial/ethnic groups in summer activity and weight gain. What is the supply and demand of summer programs and supervised opportunities in different communities?
  6. What are the academic impacts of incorporating physical activity-based learning during the school day for kids from Early Head Start to 12th grade?
  7. Where to rural kids spend their time? Measure how they are being active and the challenges to being active.
  8. Randomized study of family childcare facilities (including homes and centers) of educational strategies using screens and not using screens.
  9. Tailored interventions to address sub-group cultural values aimed at linking physical activity to academic performance.
  10. Evaluate physical activity prescriptions on BMI in Indian clinics.
  11. How can we use technology to track activity and then use the data to encourage activity among youth? Building incentives to being active in technology.
  12. How to assess the impact of role models (both youth and adults) on the implementation of physical activity?

Healthcare / Business / Industry

  1. How have Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNA)/Community Health Improvement Plans (CHIP) addressed physical activity and the correlates of physical activity since the ACA? How could hospitals be convinced to include goals for community change for physical activity, for youth, and for equity and built environment?
  2. How to best connect parks and recreation activities to users through partnerships with local organizations? How to advocate for businesses and health systems to support youth physical activity programs in parks in low income neighborhoods? (i.e., how to get local organizations to offer scholarships for kids to play on YMCA teams)
  3. Research on the availability and/or cover of exercise referral or counseling services based on whether a state has or has not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).