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Prev Chronic Dis. 2011 Jul;8(4):A72. Epub 2011 Jun 15.

Playground renovations and quality at public parks in Boston,Massachusetts, 1996-2007.

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  • 1Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Landmark Center, 401 Park Drive, Boston, MA 02215, USA.



Recreational and transportation infrastructure can promote physical activity among children and adolescents. The Play Across Boston community-based research project sought to estimate and compare playground renovation rates across Boston areas before and after a playground quality assessment, to describe changes in playground quality among a subset of parks, and to document features of local transportation infrastructure around parks.


We used an observational pretest-posttest design to estimate playground renovation rates among 103 city-operated parks. Renovation rates were calculated on the basis of annual city Parks Department capital budgets from fiscal years 1996 through 2007. We used the same design to describe changes between a 2000 to 2001 baseline assessment of playground quality and a 2007 follow-up measured via observation of a subsample of 18 low-scoring parks in disadvantaged areas. We used χ(2 ) analysis to compare percentages of playgrounds renovated across city areas before and after baseline assessment, logistic regression analysis to calculate odds ratios comparing renovation rates after baseline by city area, and paired t tests to compare playground quality at baseline and follow-up.


Overall playground renovation rates before (29%) and after (34%) baseline assessment were similar. Parks scoring low on playground quality at baseline were renovated after baseline at a higher rate than high-scoring playgrounds. After accounting for baseline playground quality, parks in disadvantaged areas were renovated at a rate similar to those in other areas. Playground quality scores improved between baseline (mean, 38.3; 95% confidence interval, 35.3-41.3) and 2007 in a subsample of previously low-scoring parks in disadvantaged areas.


The findings of the 2007 follow-up assessment indicate an equitable rate of playground renovation across city areas according to need.

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