Online Program

“We need a safe, walkable way to connect our sisters and brothers”: A Qualitative Study of Opportunities and Challenges for Neighborhood Based Physical Activity among Residents of Low-Income African-American Communities

Wednesday, November 4, 2015 : 9:10 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.

Stephanie Child, PhD, Department of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
Andrew T. Kaczynski, Ph.D., Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Justin B. Moore, PhD, MS, FACSM, Department of Health Promotion, Education, & Behavior, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Nancy L. Fleischer, PhD, MPH, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Christine E. Blake, PhD, RD, Arnold School of Public Health, Department of Health Promotion Education and Behavior, Center for Research in Nutrition and Health DIsparities, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Yvonne Reeder, LiveWell Greenville, Greenville, SC
Sally Wills, MPH, LiveWell Greenville, Greenville, SC
Spencer Moore, PhD, MPH, Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC

Background: Neighborhood-based opportunities for physical activity (PA) are important for public health. However, few studies have examined neighborhood PA opportunities using in-depth qualitative methods within low-income, racially-diverse neighborhoods. This study explored residents’ perceptions of factor influencing PA within low-income neighborhoods.

Methods: Eight focus groups were conducted in low-income, predominantly African-American neighborhoods in Greenville, SC during Spring 2014. Residents were asked to describe benefits of PA, neighborhood factors associated with PA, and ways to increase PA. Trained research assistants transcribed audio recordings verbatim. Using grounded theory and an ecological perspective, emergent coding was employed to generate initial categories. Multiple research assistants then performed open and axial coding to achieve consensus on themes. 

Results: Primarily African-American (95%), female (72%) residents (N=76; M=61.5years) participated in the study. Most participants reported walking within their communities, despite describing several community-level barriers (e.g., drugs, safety). Residents desired structured neighborhood-based opportunities for increasing PA, including walking tracks and walking groups, and reported social benefits to being active, including increased awareness within the community and trust. Participants conveyed that walking strengthened the social environment of their community as well as the health of residents. 

Conclusions: Few studies of contextual factors and PA have focused on African-American, low-income neighborhoods. Despite diverse environmental constraints, residents reported walking within their communities as part of a healthy lifestyle. Social ecological interventions tailored to promote PA and reduce health disparities among residents of low-income communities should highlight neighborhood-based opportunities for PA, focusing on personal and collective social benefits of neighborhood walking.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe the role of neighborhood environments on physical activity. Describe the perceptions of barriers and opportunities for physical activity reported by residents of low-income neighborhoods. Describe the perceptions of benefits of increasing physical activity reported by residents of low-income neighborhoods.

Keyword(s): African American, Physical Activity

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a doctoral candidate at the Arnold School of Public Health within the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior and am Co-Investigator and coordinator of the Greenville Healthy Neighborhoods 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.