223141 Strategies for increasing community park usage: Findings from Michigan's Building Healthy Communities initiative

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Julian A. Reed, EdD, MPH , Health and Exercise Science Department, Furman University, Greenville, SC
Karah D. Mantinan, MPH, RD , Altarum Institute, Washington, DC
Lisa Grost, MHSA, PAPHS , Cardiovascular Health, Nutrition and Physical Activity Section, Michigan Department of Community Health, Lansing, MI
Background: Since 2005, the Michigan Department of Community Health has provided funding to 25 local health departments through the Building Healthy Communities program. A key strategy in this initiative is to implement policy and environmental change interventions to create or enhance access for physical activity in underserved communities. Between 2007 and 2009, seven health departments were funded to enhance and promote 14 community parks. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of funded interventions designed to increase park usage. Methods: Physical activity levels were measured pre and post intervention using the System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC). Interventions included installing and extending walking paths within parks, adding equipment such as bike racks and playgrounds, installing benches, adding lighting and removing shrubbery to increase perceptions of park safety, and repairing dilapidated equipment. Results: To date, 4,137 users were observed in 14 parks (45% female, 55% male). Forty percent (n=1,674) of park users were observed participating in vigorous activity and 37% (n=1,535) were observed walking. Children and teens comprised the largest group of park users (70%, n=2,896). Adding or extending walking paths was associated with significant increases in physical activity in four parks. Addressing safety issues was associated with increased physical activity in both parks implementing this strategy. Conclusion: Enhancing and promoting parks are important strategies for increasing physical activity in underserved communities, especially among children and teens.

Learning Areas:
Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs

Learning Objectives:
1. Identify strategies for increasing physical activity in underserved areas through promotion and enhancement of community parks. 2. Compare strategies implemented across geographic locations and their impact on physical activity levels and park usage by age and other demographic characteristics. 3. Discuss how research strategies for physical activity measurement can be translated into public health practice for effective evaluation of community-based initiatives.

Keywords: Community-Based Health Promotion, Physical Activity

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am an Assistant Professor of Health and Exercise Science at Furman University and I conduct research on physical activity in park and trail settings.
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.