Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » New Orleans, Louisiana » Southern Regional Research Center » Food Processing and Sensory Quality Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #200522

Title: Development of a Direct Observation Instrument to Measure Environmental Characteristics of Parks for Physical Activity

item Bedimo-rung, Ariane
item Gustat, Jeanette
item Tompkins, Bradley
item Rice, Janet
item Thomson, Jessica

Submitted to: Journal of Physical Activity and Health
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/10/2006
Publication Date: 8/20/2006
Citation: Bedimo-Rung, A.L., Gustat, J., Tompkins, B.J., Rice, J., Thomson, J.L. 2006. Development of a Direct Observation Instrument to Measure Environmental Characteristics of Parks for Physical Activity. Obesity Research.

Interpretive Summary: A rising proportion of U.S. adults and school-aged children do not meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity. Coupled with the obesity epidemic occuring in this same population, health experts are looking towards the built environment (e.g. parks and playgrounds) as a means to promote physical activity in both children and adults. However, very little research has been done to determine the specific characteristics of parks that encourage park users to become physically active. This study describes the development and subsequent testing of an instrument that can be used to objectively measure park characteristics.

Technical Abstract: The study's purpose is to describe the development and evaluate the reliability (inter-observer agreement) and validity (rater agreement with a gold standard) of a direct observation instrument to assess park characteristics that may be related to physical activity. A direct observation instrument of 181 items was developed based on a conceptual model consisting of the following domains: features, condition, access, esthetics, and safety. Fifteen pairs of observers were trained and sent to two parks simultaneously to assess two Target Areas each. Overall domain reliability was 86.9%, and overall geographic area reliability was 87.5%. Overall domain validity was 78.7% and overall geographic area validity was 81.5%. Inter-rater reliability and validity were generally good, although validity was slightly lower than reliability. Objective items showed the highest reliability and validity. Items that are time-sensitive may need to be measured on multiple occasions, while items asking for subjective responses may require more supervised practice.