Issue 14, September 2012

Issue 14, September 2012

Active Living Research News

MOVE! A Blog About Active Living

The Partnership for a Healthier America and the Let’s Move! campaign announced the release of seven “design filters” to serve as guidelines for creating physical activity programs that provide active and positive experiences for as many children as possible. Jim Sallis applauds the announcement in our latest blog post.

ALR Resources

Moving More at School Physical Activity Resources Sheet

Physical Education classes, after-school programs, and walking or biking to and from school all have the potential to get kids moving. Unfortunately, many schools do not offer enough opportunities for children to be active. Policy-makers, teachers and parents can use research on the benefits of school physical activity to advocate for programs and policies that help children be active before, during and after school.

Download our Schools-related Resources Sheet for the best evidence available about a variety of school-based strategies for promoting physical activity.

Search for Papers Online

The ALR online literature database features papers that study the relationship of environment and policy with physical activity and obesity. The searchable database, which provides detailed information on study characteristics and results, can be used by researchers, advocates, policy-makers, and practitioners who need to find evidence on the factors that create healthier, more active communities.

Safe Routes to Schools Webinar Series

Recordings from two webinars focusing on Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) are now available online.  Both webinars were part of the SRTS Webinar Series, developed by America Walks and the National Center for Safe Routes to School.

The Active, Healthy and Ready to Learn: SRTS and Children's Health webinar shared evidence on how programs such as SRTS can directly impact the health of children and their readiness to learn. (waiting for recording to be posted)

The Economic Benefits of Safe Routes to Schools webinar focused on how SRTS and bicycling and walking can boost local economies and save communities money.

The Public Health Role in Increasing Physical Activity

The current issue of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice features a commentary by ALR Director Jim Sallis calling for a more appropriate public health response to the threat of physical inactivity. Dr. Sallis recommends several strategies for creating a more appropriate public health response to the crisis of physical inactivity, such as making sure that all schools of public health include courses in physical activity, establishing a physical activity coordinating office at the National Institutes of Health, and combining agendas with compatible public health programs (i.e. injury prevention).

Grantee Publications

Can Park Use Help Prevent Obesity?

Parks can help people be more active, but not enough is known about how much energy people actually spend while at parks.  To explore this question, Myron Floyd and colleagues conducted research in Tampa, Fla., and Chicago, Ill. to estimate energy expenditure associated with the use of neighborhood parks. Park users in Tampa burned calories equal to sedentary and light-intensity activities (e.g., sitting, relaxing, talking, eating). In Chicago, park users expended energy in levels corresponding to moderate-intensity activity (e.g. walking, bending down slowly, stretching). The authors concluded that public parks can contribute to population energy balance, but the potential is not fully realized. Policies to make parks available, promotions to encourage park use, and programs to encourage active use of parks are necessary to achieve this potential.

Are People More Active When Gas Prices are High?

When gas costs more, people are more likely to increase moderately intense forms of household physical activity (e.g. interior and exterior cleaning, gardening, and yard work), and less likely to increase engaging in leisure time physical activity or active transport (e.g. walking or biking to work). This is the finding from Bisahka Sen’s study which analyzed American Time Use Survey data to explore whether higher gas prices influence how much time people spend on different physical activity behaviors (e.g. walking for leisure or transport, sports, house work). Also, this finding was more prominent among people of higher socioeconomic status. It is hypothesized that in this case, families that would normally hire others to perform housework are saving money by performing the work themselves.

Can Sports and Structured Activity Programs Prevent Unhealthy Weight Gain in Children?

A longitudinal study of 45 Southern California schools by Genevieve Dunton and colleagues examined whether participation in organized outdoor team sports and structured indoor nonschool activity programs (e.g. dance, martial arts) could prevent children from gaining excess weight.  Dunton’s research, which tracked body mass index (BMI) over a four year period, found that BMI increased more slowly among children who participated in outdoor organized team sports and in indoor nonschool structured activities, compared with children who did not engage in these activities. The authors concluded that participating in organized sports and activity programs as early as kindergarten and the first grade can prevent excess weight when children are most at risk of obesity.

Impacts of a School Recess Intervention

Ready for Recess is a program designed to encourage physical activity among children by educating school staff about the importance of children’s physical activity and providing recreational equipment and playground markings to create activity zones during recess. Findings from a pilot study by Jennifer Huberty and colleagues evaluated the effectiveness of Ready for Recess among 3rd-5th grade students at two Midwestern schools. Children at the school that implemented Ready for Recess were more moderately to vigorously active than those at the school without the program. Specifically, the students were active for an additional 4.7 minutes during recess, and for an additional 29.6 minutes during the rest of the school day. These results indicated that strategies such as staff training and recreational equipment may be an effective way to increase children’s physical activity during recess time as well as during the rest of the school day.

Grantee Spotlight

Grantee Receives Harvard Award

Harvard University awarded the Howard T. Fisher Prize for Excellence in Geographic Information Science to Dustin Duncan for his doctoral research, which was made possible by an ALR dissertation grant. His dissertation, “A Spatial Analysis of Obesogenic Neighborhood Environmental Influences among Children and Adolescents,” examined how various neighborhood environmental features (e.g. crime, access to walking destinations and community design) influence obesity risk among children and adolescents.  Check out Dustin’s blog post about receiving this award and his project.

Healthy, Active Black Children and Families

Sofiya Alhassan and Janice Johnson Dias will be presenting at the National Black Child Development Institute’s (NBCDI) conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on October 9, 2012. This is the country’s leading conference focused on the wellbeing of Black children and their families. Drs. Alhassan and Johnson Dias will be part of an ALR-sponsored panel to share strategies and policy recommendations to help racial and ethnic minority and lower- income children be more active at school and in their neighborhoods.  ALR’s Debbie Lou will highlight findings from our research synthesis Do All Children Have Places to Play? Disparities in Access to Physical Activity Environments in Racial and Ethnic Minority and Lower-Income Communities.

Puerto Rico Approves New Physical Education Legislation

Puerto Rico recently approved legislation (PC 3781) based on policy recommendations that stemmed from Alex Vigo’s project regarding physical education (PE). PC 3781 requires that schools and the Department of Education submit annual progress reports on PE programs. The policy stipulates that the PE budget should be used to acquire sport equipment necessary to support the PE course and sport activities implemented at each school.

Funding Opportunities

Health Impact Assessment

The Health Impact Project announces a call for proposals (CFP) to support two types of health impact assessment (HIA) initiatives: 1) HIA demonstration projects that inform a specific decision and help to build the case for the value of HIA; and 2) HIA program grants to enable organizations with previous HIA experience to conduct HIAs and develop sustainable, self-supporting HIA programs at the local, state, or tribal level.


The American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAPHERD) has grant opportunities for early career investigators and graduate students to support original research in health, physical education, sport, recreation and/or dance. Pre-proposals are due October 1, 2012.

NIH Grants for Time-Sensitive Research

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announces a funding opportunity (RO1) to support time-sensitive research to evaluate a new policy or program expected to influence obesity related behaviors (e.g., dietary intake, physical activity, or sedentary behavior) and/or weight outcomes in an effort to prevent or reduce obesity.  All applications must demonstrate that the evaluation of an obesity related policy and/or program offers an uncommon and scientifically compelling research opportunity that will only be available if the research is initiated with minimum delay. Application deadlines: Multiple.

Resources & Other Announcements

Hopeful News Ushers in Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

September is national Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, a critical observance since over the past 30 years the childhood obesity rate in America has almost tripled. But some good news coming from Philadelphia and other places shows it is possible to fight this trend. A recent study reported that the overall obesity rate among Philadelphia schoolchildren fell more than 4.5 percent between the 2006-07 and 2009-10 school years. The decrease, from an obesity rate of 21.5 percent to 20.5 percent, was reported among male and female students ages 5 to 18 from all racial and ethnic groups. The largest declines were seen among African American boys and Hispanic girls.

And a new brief from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation describes the decline in Philadelphia and in New York City, Mississippi, and California. The brief notes that the places reporting declines are those that are taking comprehensive action to address the childhood obesity epidemic.

Safe Routes to School Success Stories

A new report by Anne Vernez Moudon and Orion Stewart looked at the extent to which Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) programs in Florida, Mississippi, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin increased rates of children safely walking or biking to school. These projects, which spanned 2005 to 2011, featured changes to the built environment, with sidewalk improvements being the most common activity. The report found that, overall, active travel to school increased by 37 percent following completion of SRTS projects.

Voting Now Open for the Childhood Obesity Challenge

We encourage you to submit your vote to the Childhood Obesity Challenge. This competition  asked innovators from different fields and sectors to submit promising solutions to the childhood obesity epidemic—creative programs, projects, ideas and interventions that are not yet supported by volumes of research data but embody highly innovative and promising strategies.  Voting ends and winners will be announced on September 30.

More People Are Walking Their Way to Better Health

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a new Vital Sign showing that the percentage of people who report walking at least once for 10 minutes or more in the previous week rose from 56 percent in 2005 to 62 percent in 2010—a nearly 11 percent increase. More than 6 in 10 people walk for transportation, fun and relaxation, or exercise, or for activities such as walking the dog.

How Healthy Are Afterschool Programs?

The Healthy Afterschool Program Index for Physical Activity and Nutrition (HAAND) is a first of its kind collection of new tools for assessing the extent to which afterschool programs meet physical activity and nutrition policies. A recent study of twenty afterschool programs evaluated the tools’ accuracy in measuring whether the existence of physical activity and nutrition policies is related to healthier environments.  The authors conclude that the HAAND instrument is a reliable and valid measurement tool that can be used to assess the physical activity and nutritional environment of afterschool programs.

Newsletter Date: 
Tuesday, September 11, 2012