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An initiative to facilitate park usage, discovery, and physical activity among children and adolescents in Greenville County, South Carolina, 2014

Summary


A health-promotion initiative increases park usage, park discovery, perceptions of parks, and the proportion of time children and adolescents spend in physical activity during park visits

The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a health-promotion initiative in Greenville County, South Carolina. This initiative – referred to as Park Hop — focused on increasing park usage, park discovery, perceptions of parks, and children’s physical activity (PA) during park visits. The study was also designed to determine whether participation in the program influenced parents’ perceptions of park quality, quality of park amenities, park safety, and enjoyment of parks by their children.

Park Hop, created as a strategy to increase PA in parks, operated from mid-May to mid-August 2014. The program was open to all young people aged 18 years or younger and their families. After registering through a Park Hop website, participants were provided access to a printable or downloadable park passport. This passport prompted participants to be active in searching for clues during their visits to community parks. Nineteen parks were included in the program. Each park was assigned a clue focusing on a park amenity designed for PA (playground, rock climbing wall, walking trail). Some of the clues were nature focused: “How many evergreen trees are there on the playground near the pavilion?” “Find the Secret Garden in front of the museum and look for the animal sculpture . . .” Participants answered the clues using their park passport and, when completed, submitted their passports online or through a mobile app.

A total of 302 children and adolescents from 236 families submitted completed passports. Another 211 children and adolescents visited at least 1 park while using the mobile app. Two data collection methods were used: (1) parent surveys completed before and after their children participated in the program and (2) in-park observations during 4 days near the midpoint of the program. The surveys collected demographic characteristics and children’s weight, as well as information about park usage, park discovery (visiting a park for the first time), park-based PA, and perceptions of parks. The System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC) was used to assess PA in 2 Park Hop locations (intervention parks) and 2 similar parks not a part of the Park Hop program (control parks).

Results indicated that 8.6% of the participants were overweight and 13.8% were obese. Survey data suggested the Park Hop program was effective in positively influencing park usage, park discovery, proportion of time engaged in PA during park visits, and perceptions of parents concerning quality of park amenities. Parent perceptions of park safety, overall park quality, and degree of children’s enjoyment of parks did not change. Between-park observational data indicated that more children and adolescents used the two intervention parks than the two control parks (however, children in the control parks were more likely to be engaged in moderate to vigorous PA than those in the Park Hop parks). These findings indicate that health-intervention programs based on the Park Hop model have the potential to increase park usage and improve the PA behavior of children and adolescents.

Citation

Fair, M.L., Kaczynski, A.T., Hughey, S.M., Besenyi, G. M., Powers, A.R., (2017). An initiative to facilitate park usage, discovery, and physical activity among children and adolescents in Greenville County, South Carolina, 2014. Preventing Chronic Disease, 14(14), 1-9.

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