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Research Project: Improving Nutrition and Physical Activity Related Health Behaviors in Children and Their Environment

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Title: Assessment of town and park characteristics related to physical activity in the Lower Mississippi Delta

Author
item Thomson, Jessica
item Goodman, Melissa
item Landry, Alicia - University Of Central Arkansas

Submitted to: Preventing Chronic Disease
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/9/2018
Publication Date: 3/28/2019
Citation: Thomson, J.L., Goodman, M.H., Landry, A.S. 2019. Assessment of town and park characteristics related to physical activity in the Lower Mississippi Delta. Preventing Chronic Disease. 16:180410. https://doi.org/10.5888/pcd16.180410.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.5888/pcd16.180410

Interpretive Summary: Physical activity can be an effective method for preventing chronic disease and maintaining one’s overall health; yet most American adults do not meet the recommended amounts of physical activity. The built environment can strongly influence an individual’s physical activity habits. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine aspects of the built environment that might have contributed to the low levels of physical activity observed among participants of the Delta Healthy Sprouts Project. The Project was designed to test the comparative impact of two maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting curricula on health behaviors of women and their infants. The built environments of 12 rural towns located in the Lower Mississippi Delta were measured using the Rural Active Living Assessment tools and the Community Park Audit Tool. On average, town assessment scores were low, ranging between 0% (town policy) and 68% (parks and playgrounds) of score ranges. However, higher scores for some assessment parameters were observed as town size increased, suggesting that the built environments of larger towns were more conducive to engagement in physical activity by the residents. The average number of parks per town was approximately 3, although 55% of the 31 parks were located in the two largest towns. The majority of the parks (87%) had a single amenity while one park had more than four amenities. On average, participants lived 1 mile from the nearest park, although distances ranged from less than 0.1 to almost 9 miles. In summary, these 12 Lower Mississippi Delta towns scored low on assessments of physical environment features and amenities, town characteristics, and programs and policies associated with physical activity in rural communities. To increase the physical activity level of rural residents, it may be necessary to first improve the built environment in which they live.

Technical Abstract: The purpose of this ancillary study was to determine aspects of Delta Healthy Sprouts participants’ built environment that might have contributed to their low levels of physical activity in both gestational and postnatal periods. The built environments of 12 towns were measured using the Rural Active Living Assessment tools and the Community Park Audit Tool. Correlations between town assessment scores and town size variables were computed using Kendall’s tau coefficient. The straight-line distance from a participant’s home address to the nearest park was computed using Near analysis in ArcGIS. Rural Active Living Assessment scores were low with mean values between 0% (town policy) and 68% (parks and playgrounds) of score ranges. Town density and population were significantly and positively associated with three and five scores, respectively. The mean number of parks per town was 2.6 (standard deviation = 3.2), and 55% of the 31 parks were located in the two largest towns. The majority of the parks (87%) had a single amenity while one park had more than four amenities. Distance from a participant’s home to the nearest park ranged from less than 0.1 to 8.4 miles (mean = 1.0, standard deviation = 1.6). These 12 Lower Mississippi Delta towns scored low on assessments of physical environment features and amenities, town characteristics, and programs and policies associated with physical activity in rural communities. To increase the physical activity level of rural residents, it may be necessary to first improve the built environment in which they live.