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National evaluation of walk to school day: Differences in level of implementation

Amber Vaughn, MPH, RD1, Laura A. Linnan, ScD, CHES2, Lauren Marchetti, BFA3, Bill Hall, MA3, Mark Fenton, MS3, Dianne Ward, EdD4, Sarah Martin, PhD5, and Janet E. Fulton, PhD5. (1) Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1700 Airport Road, Rm226, CB 7426, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7426, 919-843-0900, avaughn@email.unc.edu, (2) Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, UNC Chapel Hill School of Public Health, CB #7440, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7440, (3) Highway Safety Research Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 730 AIRPORT RD BOLIN CREEK CTR STE 300 / CB 3430, CB 7426, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3430, (4) Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, CB #7400, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7400, (5) Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4770 Buford Hwy NE; Mailstop K-46, Atlanta, GA 30341-3717

Children’s trips to school by walking or biking have decreased substantially over the past 30 years. Active travel accounts now for about 15% of trips compared to almost half of all school travel years ago. National Walk to School (WTS) Day originated in 1997 as a means of reversing this trend, and has since grown in popularity to become an international event. To date, no formal evaluation has been done to assess the effectiveness of the WTS program, or to identify the most salient components. The first phase of the National Evaluation of Walk to School Project was a survey of all schools registered for the 2002 event (n = 785 school or district coordinators) using mail, email and phone methods to assess: the activities offered, the groups involved, the resources allocated, and the perceived impact. Response rate to the survey was 69% (550/785). Schools were categorized into one of three levels of program implementation: Level 1 - WTS Day only; Level 2 – WTS Day plus additional promotions/activities; and Level 3 – WTS Day plus policy and/or environmental changes. A dose response relationship was observed between program level and perceived increase in the number of children walking to school such that 64% of Level 3 schools reported an increase compared to 20% of Level 1 schools and 47% Level 2 schools. Although level of program implementation was not associated with the parents’ perception of safety or the perceived willingness of students to walk to school; a dose response was observed with other factors including years of participation in the WTS program and community involvement.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Physical Activity, School-Based Programs

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Political Economy of Health

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA