Location: Children's Nutrition Research CenterTitle: Pilot evaluation of a walking school bus program in a low-income, urban community) Author
Submitted to: BioMed Central(BMC) Public Health
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/4/2009
Publication Date: 5/4/2009
Citation: Mendoza, J.A., Levinger, D.D., Johnston, B.D. 2009. Pilot evaluation of a walking school bus program in a low-income, urban community. BMC Public Health [serial online]. 9:122. Interpretive Summary: Walking school buses are programs in which parents take turns leading children on the walk to and from school. We report the successful long-term implementation of a walking school bus program among low-income, urban elementary school children. The walking school bus program was associated with more students walking to school as compared to similar schools without the program. This is important because walking school buses may be a population level intervention to increase children's physical activity and prevent obesity.
Technical Abstract: Our objective was to evaluate the impact of a walking school bus (WSB) program on student transport in a low-income, urban neighborhood. The design was a controlled, quasi-experimental trial with consecutive cross-sectional assessments. The setting was three urban, socioeconomically disadvantaged, public elementary schools (1 intervention vs. 2 controls) in Seattle, Washington, USA. Participants were ethnically diverse students in kindergarten-5th grade (aged 5–11 years). The intervention was a WSB program consisting of a part-time WSB coordinator and parent volunteers. Students' method of transportation to school was assessed by a classroom survey at baseline and one-year follow-up. The Pearson Chi-squared test compared students transported to school at the intervention versus control schools at each time point. Due to multiple testing, we calculated adjusted p-values using the Ryan-Holm stepdown Bonferroni procedure. McNemar's test was used to examine the change from baseline to 12-month follow-up for walking versus all other forms of school transport at the intervention or control schools. At baseline, the proportions of students (n = 653) walking to the intervention (20% +/- 2%) or control schools (15% +/- 2%) did not differ (p = 0.39). At 12-month follow up, higher proportions of students (n = 643, p = 0.001) walked to the intervention (25% +/- 2%) versus the control schools (7% +/- 1%). No significant changes were noted in the proportion of students riding in a car or taking the school bus at baseline or 12-month follow up (all p > 0.05). Comparing baseline to 12-month follow up, the numbers of students who walked to the intervention school increased while the numbers of students who used the other forms of transport did not change (p < 0.0001). In contrast, the numbers of students who walked to the control schools decreased while the numbers of students who used the other forms of transport did not change (p < 0.0001). A WSB program is a promising intervention among urban, low-income elementary school students that may promote favorable changes toward active transport to school.