Public-support-strong-for-policies-environments-that-ecourage-physical-activity

Public support strong for policies & environments that ecourage physical activity

Most people across the country support local policies that encourage physical activity in worksites, communities, and especially schools, according to a new study written by researchers at the Tulane Prevention Research Center (PRC) and other universities.

"This study is the first of its kind to examine on a national level how people view policies related to physical activity and healthy environments," said Jeanette Gustat, the study's lead author and a faculty investigator at the Tulane PRC. "This is particularly important because it can help planners, policymakers and health professionals understand the public's support for environmental and policy changes."

More than 1,200 adults participated in the study's phone survey, developed by the Physical Activity Policy Research Network (PAPRN), a national research network funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study physical activity policies. The findings were published in a special issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion in January.

The survey asked questions related to gauging their support for physical activity policies in schools, worksites and communities; neighborhood features and amenities related to physical activity and healthy eating; and time spent in physical activity and sedentary behaviors. Participants reported their weight and height (used to calculate BMI) and other personal characteristics. The study compared answers from participants living in counties or parishes with high levels of obesity and sedentary behavior to answers from those living in counties or parishes with low levels of obesity and sedentary behavior.

People reported the strongest support for policies in schools, and this opinion did not differ between the two types of counties or parishes. People in both areas also expressed support for physical activity policies at worksites and in communities, but those in counties or parishes with low levels of obesity and sedentary behavior had stronger overall support for physical activity policies in communities. Support for community physical activity policies that didn't involve tax increases received slightly stronger support than policies that included tax increases from people in both areas.

Additionally, positive perceptions of neighborhood environments, such as having outlets for physical activity and healthy eating, were related to decreased obesity and improved physical activity levels for participants.

"This shows the importance of creating a healthy neighborhood environment because when residents feel their community supports physical activity and healthy eating they are more likely to be physically active and healthy," said Keelia O'Malley, an author on the study and assistant director of the Tulane PRC.

(Posted January 2014)

Topics:   built environment , policy , physical activity , obesity , sidewalks , bike lanes , food environment , running

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