185513 Promoting community physical activity in public parks

Monday, October 27, 2008

Terry Marsh, MPH , Health, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA
Deborah Cohen, MD, MPH , Health, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA
Kathryn Pitkin Derose, PhD, MPH , Health, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA
Thomas L. Mckenzie, PhD , School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA
The obesity epidemic has led to calls for increased physical activity (PA) in diverse settings. Public parks have great potential for PA promotion, however little systematic information is available on usage. To collect baseline data for a randomized trial of parks and physical activity, we surveyed the directors of 50 urban parks to determine the number of programs sponsored at the park in the past year, number of participants, level of resources, and level and type of community involvement. We also obtained census data to determine the number and demographic characteristics of people living within one mile of each park. Although the variation in facilities, resources, and population density was relatively small, there was an extraordinarily wide variation in opportunities for and participation in PA within the parks (e.g., program range = 5 to 15; participant range = 72 to 3,766). Levels of community involvement also varied considerably, with some parks having Park Advisory Boards (PAB) that met monthly and others having no PABs at all. None of the factors studied could completely explain the variation in usage. With neither physical features of the park nor characteristics of individuals who lived nearby being highly associated with participation in park programs, we suspect that management styles, training, motivation, and outreach by park personnel may be more important in optimizing community park programs that promote PA. In order to promote optimal park usage and PA, guidelines and benchmarks for program planning and performance should be established.

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe public parks and their potential as a venue for physical activity. 2. Describe park management, use, and variation within the park system in a large metropolitan area. 3. Identify gaps in park utilization and factors that might optimize community physical activity through parks.

Keywords: Physical Activity, Community Participation

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the coordinator of the study to be discussed and can speak to all project details and provide relevant background.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.