Walking to School and the Social Environment
Methods: Surveys were conducted among 1,774 parents of 4th grade students from 81 elementary schools in diverse communities across Texas. The social environmental variables included social participation items, such as voting in elections, contacting government officials about community issue, attending governmental meetings (e.g. school board, city council), volunteering at the child’s school, and volunteering for community organizations; and social perception items, such as social trust, individualism, safety concerns, belongingness, and willingness to participate in community problem-solving. Generalized linear mixed models for logistic regression were used to predict the odds of children’s WTS, treating school as a random effect and controlling for student gender, social economic disadvantage, years living at current address, travel time to school, and objectively-measured home-to-school street network distance.
Findings: Our analysis identified two significant social environmental variables, but both were negatively associated with WTS: attending any official government body’s meeting (OR=.580, P=.039) and volunteering at child’s school (OR=.583, P=.006), both of which were social participation items. None of the social perception items were significant in our study.
Conclusions: Unlike most previous studies on social environments that have reported positive impacts on various health-related outcomes, this study found their roles to be insignificant or negative for WTS. Further studies are needed to examine interactive roles among the personal, social, and built environmental factors and to assess additional dimensions of social environments that may be more closely linked to WTS, which will be important to guide the development of effective intervention strategies for promoting WTS at the community level.
Learning Areas:Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences
Discuss the roles of social factors as related to general health outcomes versus children’s walking to school behaviors, Identify survey items that can be used to assess the neighborhood social environment for studying walking to school and other health behaviors, and Discuss research gaps and challenges in addressing multi-level environmental factors related children’s walking to school behaviors.
Keyword(s): Community-Based Health, Child Health Promotion