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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: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/29/2018
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Background: Most American adults do not meet the recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical activity. A potential factor affecting an individual’s low level of physical activity is the built environment consisting of the design, land use, and transportation systems of the towns and neighborhoods in which individuals live and work. Between 2013 and 2016, a diet and physical activity intervention, Delta Healthy Sprouts, was conducted with pregnant women and their infants residing in the rural Lower Mississippi Delta region of the United States. Objectives: The objective of this ancillary study was to determine aspects of the Delta Healthy Sprouts participants’ built environment that may have contributed to their low levels of physical activity in the both the gestational and postnatal periods. Methods: Between 2016 and 2017, 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. Results: 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. Only 26% of parks had bordering sidewalks and none had a public transit stop near the park. Additionally, only 26% of the parks featured landscaping. 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). Conclusions: These 12 Lower Mississippi Delta towns scored low on assessments of physical environment features and amenities, town characteristics, and programs and policies that can affect physical activity among residents in rural communities. While the majority of Delta Healthy Sprouts participants lived in relatively close proximity to a park, the parks lacked features known to be associated with physical activity, such as safe walking routes and aesthetics. Implications for Practice and Policy: To increase the physical activity levels of rural residents, it may be necessary to first improve the built environment in which they live. Support/Funding Source: US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (Project 6401-53000-003-00D).