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Am J Prev Med. 2012 Nov;43(5 Suppl 4):S300-8. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2012.06.023.

Assessment for active living: harnessing the power of data-driven planning and action.

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Active Living by Design, North Carolina Institute for Public Health, Gillings School of Global Public Health, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27516, USA.



Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Active Living by Design (ALbD) grant program funded 25 communities across the U.S. The ALbD National Program Office (NPO) supported grantee community partnerships with technical assistance for assessment, planning, and implementation activities intended to increase population levels of physical activity.


This paper analyzes and summarizes the range of assessments conducted to identify local barriers and opportunities for active living as important elements of a thorough intervention planning process.


Evaluation of the partnerships focused on documenting community changes and strategies used to produce those changes. With support from NPO staff and external evaluators, partnerships tracked and summarized their community assessment approaches as well as strengths and challenges in conducting assessments.


The partnerships documented a range of assessment strategies and methods. Partnerships used several qualitative methods, including focus groups, individual and group interviews, and public meetings. Quantitative methods included surveys, audits, observations, and analysis of existing data, among others. The environmental audit was the most common assessment method used by the partnerships. Assessment processes and findings were used for not only intervention planning but also community engagement and direct advocacy. Assessment data collectors varied from professional staff to community volunteers.


Assessments were essential to the identification of local barriers and assets related to active living, which in turn helped ALbD partnerships prioritize and refine their action strategies. Assessment processes were also valuable in building relationships with new partners, community members, and local officials.

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