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Am J Prev Med. 2009 Apr;36(4 Suppl):S156-60. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2009.01.009.

Measurement of park and recreation environments that support physical activity in low-income communities of color: highlights of challenges and recommendations.

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North Carolina State University, Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695, USA.


The capacity of public parks and recreation environments to promote physical activity for low-income communities of color is receiving increased attention from researchers and policymakers. As a result, several systems to measure park and recreation environments have been recently developed. Developing measures is important because they are critical to establishing key correlates and determinants that drive physical activity and inform intervention strategies. This paper briefly reviews recently developed approaches for measuring physical environments within public parks and recreation areas. It critiques the capacity of these approaches to advance an understanding of how parks and recreation settings contribute to physical activity in low-income communities of color. Residents of low-income communities of color are usually found to have lower physical activity, and this may be due partly to a disparity in access to parks and other recreation environments. Three primary recommendations are presented. First, future measurement tools should explicitly reflect inequality in the built environment in terms of availability and quality of parks and recreation areas. Second, measurement strategies should incorporate research on recreation activity and setting preferences important in low-income communities of color. Finally, the perceptions of residents of low-income communities of color should be reflected in measurement approaches. One strategy for incorporating the perceptions is community-based participatory research. The rapid development of high-quality tools for measuring parks and recreation environments is encouraging. However, existing measures should be tested and refined in varying social-ecologic conditions, and new tools should be developed specifically for nuances associated with low-income minority communities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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