201655 Active Living in Somerville MA: The importance of access to and utilization of recreational space for middle school aged students

Monday, November 9, 2009: 10:30 AM

Virginia Chomitz, PhD , The Institute for Community Health, Cambridge, MA
Julia McDonald, MS, MPH , Institute for Community Health, Cambridge, MA
Patrice Melvin, MPH , Cambridge Health Alliance, Institute for Community Health, Cambridge, MA
Denise Aske, MPH , Heller School of Social Policy, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Howard Cabral, PhD , School of Public Health, Boston University, Boston, MA
Karen Hacker, MD MPH , Institute for Community Health, Cambridge Health Alliance, Cambridge, MA
Background: Nationally, the percentage of overweight children ages 6-19 has increased threefold in the last 25 years. In response to this trend, policymakers and communities have considered how physical environments can facilitate active living. Over the past 5-years, community-wide initiatives in Somerville, Massachusetts have worked to promote active living.

Methods: A retrospective study design was used to assess the impact of active living activities on middle school student's levels of physical activity in Somerville pre/post intervention (2003/2007), and compared to a control community where no such activities had taken place (2007 only). An anonymous survey employing questions from the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey and customized questions on recreation space was used for evaluation in both communities. Approximately 1000 students were surveyed at each time point per city. Logistic modeling predicted the likelihood of meeting national physical activity guidelines for moderate or vigorous activity.

Results: The percentage of Somerville students who met the physical activity recommendations increased by 8.8% (p<0.05) from 2003-2007. When compared to the control community, Somerville students were more likely to access public spaces for physical activity: school playground (p<0.001), community bike path (p< 0.05), and neighborhood parks (p<0.001). Significant predictors of meeting active living guidelines included using public spaces for recreation, viewing less than 2 hours of television per day, receiving encouragement for physical activity at home, being male and speaking English as the primary language.

Discussion: This study supports other research on the role of public space access in helping children meet active living guidelines.

Learning Objectives:
1.) Explain the role of utilizing public recreation space on physical activity in youth. 2.) Identify other factors related to meeting physical activity recommendations 3.) Describe retrospective methods to evaluate community-wide efforts.

Keywords: Physical Activity, Children and Adolescents

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: My work focuses primarily on promoting healthy weight through school-based nutrition and physical activity action programs and research. I have an MS and PhD from Tufts University School of Nutrition in Medford, MA.
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.