239986 Safe Routes to School: Community and university partnerships to promote walking to school

Wednesday, November 2, 2011: 10:30 AM

Marian Levy, DrPH, RD , School of Public Health, University of Memphis, Memphis, TN
Stephanie S. Ivey, PhD , Department of Civil Engineering, University of Memphis, Memphis, TN
Marla B. Royne, PhD , Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, University of Memphis, Memphis, TN
Susan Roakes, PhD , City and Regional Planning, University of Memphis, Memphis, TN
Background: Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is a federal program designed to increase children's walking/bicycling to school. Primary goals of SRTS are to reduce traffic congestion and vehicle emissions around schools, reduce obesity risk in school children, and improve safety along school routes. Purpose: An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Memphis representing Engineering, City/Regional Planning, Public Health, and Marketing partnered with Memphis City Schools and community agencies to investigate parental perceptions and barriers regarding walking/biking to school in an inner city, predominantly African American elementary school. Significance: Encouraging walking/biking to schools can improve physical activity levels and reduce exposure to pollutants that exacerbate asthma symptoms. Methodology: A parental survey in 2009 assessed demographics, school distance, mode of school arrival/departure, and issues affecting parental decisions. Response rate was 42% of the 545 surveys distributed (n=230). Findings: Of students living < mile from school, only 30% walked, compared with 57% who arrived by car. Of students living between - mile from school, 67% commuted by family vehicle. While more than 2/3rd of parents (68%) felt walking and biking to school were healthy activities, only 31% indicated their school encouraged these activities. The primary barrier to allowing children to walk/ride bikes was violence/crime (83%). Among parents whose children walked to school, 44% indicated crossing guards affected their decision. Conclusions: Addressing parental concerns related to crime/safety is a promising strategy to increase walking to school in urban neighborhoods. Providing crime protection and increasing crossing guards are important policy investments.

Learning Areas:
Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Other professions or practice related to public health
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Identify factors that influence parental decisions to let their children walk to school in an urban school district

Keywords: School Health, African American

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am part of the interdisciplinary team of researchers working on the Safe Routes to School project.
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.