Physical Activity Research

The Tulane PRC engages in a number of research projects related to physical activity and the built environment. Studies show that people are more likely to be active if their neighborhoods are walkable and bikeable. We also know that access to playgrounds, parks and recreational facilities are important means of promoting physical activity. At the Tulane PRC, we believe that people will be active if given a safe, dedicated space to do so.

Louisiana Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program


Physical activity is a leading indicator of Healthy People 2010. Yet children and adolescents fall short of reaching recommended goals for daily physical activity, and the prevalence of obesity in children is rising rapidly. One way to increase the amount of activity children participate in is to promote walking and bicycling to school. The Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program was designed to enable and encourage school-aged children to walk and bicycle to school, to make walking and bicycling safer and appealing to encourage healthy lifestyles, and to improve safety and reduce traffic around schools.

Under a SRTS grant with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, the Tulane Prevention Research Center (PRC) is partnering with local advocacy group Bike Easy to provide road safety education to 4th and 5th graders in 10 New Orleans Schools in 2015. The Tulane PRC is also partnering with the New Orleans City Council’s School Transportation Safety Committee to update the New Orleans Police Department’s Crossing Guard Manual and promote safe walking and biking opportunities in communities and around schools.

Click here to read the PRC’s report (2016) on the project’s crossing guard manual and results from the education program and parent survey.
Click here to read the PRC’s report (2015) on the goal of the project.

Principal Investigator: Carolyn Johnson, PhD, FAAHB
Program Coordinator: John Marmion

Past Project

The Tulane PRC’s previous SRTS Evaluation Study was a study of the attitudes and possible barriers to children walking or biking to and from school. The Safe Routes to School Program directly addresses some of these concerns, providing both infrastructure and non-infrastructure improvements to pedestrian and bicycle safety through the grant program.

In collaboration with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, the Tulane PRC collected community and school-level information throughout Louisiana using the Evaluation tools of the SRTS program. This included the Parent Survey and Teacher Tally Sheet as developed by the National Center. A page of supplemental questions was added to the Parent Survey to capture information about the child’s environment. Additionally, environmental measurements of the proposed routes and surrounding areas were collected using a standardized audit tool (Pedestrian Environmental Data Scan developed by Dr. K Clifton). Together these methods gave multiple layers of information indicating potential factors effecting walking and biking rates.

An extension of the study involved an analysis of geospatial clustering of student residences in relation to the proposed routes. With this information, the proportion of the schools’ populations that will have most access to the routes approved for SRTS grant funding will be determined. The most immediate and significant barriers (attitudes and physical infrastructure) which prevent children from walking or biking to and from school will be identified. This information can be used to inform policy makers and program developers on the potential successes generated by the SRTS grant program; as well as any improvements which can be incorporated into the program.

To read about this study’s published findings, click here.
Click here for the paper (2014) on the SRTS Evaluation Study in the Journal of School Health.
Click here for the abstract presentation on the SRTS Evaluation Study at the 2012 International Making Cities Livable Conference.

Principal Investigator: Jeanette Gustat, PhD, MPH

Other Related Projects


Movin' for LIFE

The overall goal of the Movin’ for LIFE (Lasting Improvements for Fitness and Energy) project is to improve the health of residents by focusing on increasing health-related behaviors, such as healthy eating and being more physically active. Residents of the Upper and Lower Ninth Ward and New Orleans East will participate in the program. A variety of strategies will be used to promote active and healthy lifestyles. Lessons learned will be used to create a…

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Health Impact of Bike Lanes in New Orleans, Louisiana

Past Project The epidemiology department in partnership with the Tulane Prevention Research Center (PRC) was awarded a one-year, $150,000 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Rapid Response Grant to evaluate the impact of installing bike lanes in New Orleans on ridership. Approximately 45 miles of new bike lanes will be constructed on New Orleans streets linking residential neighborhoods to commercial corridors thanks to post-Katrina funding for resurfacing roads. Researchers will examine the impact of constructing bike lanes…

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Physical Activity Policy Research Network (PAPRN)

Past Project The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created the Physical Activity Policy Research Network (PAPRN) in October of 2004 to study the effectiveness of health policies related to increasing physical activity in communities. The PAPRN was established as a thematic research network of the Prevention Research Centers (PRCs) program, with funding from the Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity at CDC. The formally established network consists of four PRC member centers, one…

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Lafitte Greenway Evaluation

Past Project Obesity is national health problem, and Louisiana is tied for the third-highest obesity rate in the United States. According to the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 17% of New Orleans youth are overweight, compared to 14% nationally. Levels of physical activity can be related to obesity, and youth in New Orleans were less likely to be physically active than those in the rest of the country: 45% of New Orleans youth had participated…

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Featured Publications


Nutrition and Food Availability


Neighbourhood fruit and vegetable availability and consumption: the role of small food stores in an urban environment


Built Environment


Urban residents' priorities for neighborhood features. A survey of New Orleans residents after Hurricane Katrina

all scientific publications


Community Briefs


Schoolyard Project


Policy Briefs


A Question of Access: Addressing Poor Nutrition, Food Availability, and Policy

all prc publications