Active Living in Diverse and Disadvantaged Communities

Socioeconomic, policy and environmental barriers explored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Active Living Research Program, reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine

San Diego, April 3, 2008 – About 25 million US children and adolescents are overweight or obese. As obesity continues to increase while physical activity continues to decline in the United States, the disparity between the general population and low-income and minority populations continues to grow larger. These issues are addressed in a special issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (April 2008), Active Living in Diverse and Disadvantaged Communities.

The papers in this special issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine are an outgrowth of the fourth Active Living Research Annual Conference sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Active Living Research Program. They focus on numerous policy and environmental barriers faced by populations with low rates of physical activity. Many of these barriers to active living reflect broader social and environmental justice issues. The papers identify specific explanations for racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in active living and obesity while pointing towards policy and environmental solutions.

It is widely known that moderate and vigorous physical activity protects against a variety of chronic diseases. Yet, studies show that 56% of Hispanic and 54% of African-American adults reported no leisure-time physical activity, in contrast to 35% percent of non-Hispanic whites. Other trend data show that little progress has been made to eliminate disparities in physical activity participation. Prevalence of overweight and obesity is also greater in low-income and minority communities.

It has been 12 years since the publication of the Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health provided ample evidence that physical activity is a critical, and cost-effective, component of public health. Physical activity practitioners continue to face challenges on how to implement evidence-based, population-level interventions that are tailored for and effective in diverse communities.

This special issue is driven by the recognition that the strategies that have been studied and successfully implemented in general populations may not take into account the unique circumstances and special environments that support or deter active living in underserved, and routinely understudied, communities. One cross-cutting theme throughout the issue is safety concerns related to crime.

Writing in an introductory article, “Active Living Research in Diverse and Disadvantaged Communities,” the Guest Editors of the issue state that “...the articles included in this special issue support a conclusion that we need to reclaim our open areas, streets, and parks for play, active recreation, and active transportation. The research reported here provides some initial direction for creating community environments and policies that will support and encourage diverse populations, even those from disadvantaged communities, to live active and healthy lives.”

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Active Living Research Program focuses on the prevention of childhood obesity in low-income and high-risk racial/ethnic communities by supporting research to examine how environments and policies influence active living for children and their families. This agenda has advanced transdisciplinary research among researchers from exercise science, public health, transportation, urban planning, architecture, recreation and leisure studies, landscape architecture, geography, economics, policy studies, and education to inform environmental and policy changes that promote active living among Americans.

In “Keeping Our Promise to America’s Youth,” Kathy J. Spangler of America’s Promise Alliance writes, “The emerging work of the Active Living Research Program is likely to contribute to addressing the broader social and environmental justice issues affecting children and families in low-income and high-risk racial/ethnic communities. As the opportunities and threats of a technologically advanced, culturally diverse, and increasingly global economy influence social and environmental policy, we must be mindful that children are our future. The work of America’s Promise Alliance is to see that all children are supported with the comprehensive services that they need to succeed in life, which should include being physically active and avoiding obesity. Working together, this should be our promise to America’s young people.”

The fifth Active Living Research Annual Conference is being held April 9 - 12, 2008 in Washington, DC.
Special Issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 34, Issue 4 (April 2008) published by Elsevier.

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Full text of the articles is available upon request; contact to obtain copies. To schedule an interview with the Guest Editors contact: Dr. Myron Floyd (North Carolina State University) 919-513-8026,; Dr. Carlos Crespo (Portland State University) 503-725-5120,; Dr. James Sallis (San Diego State University and Active Living Research) 619-260-5535,

American Journal of Preventive Medicine
Theme Issue:
Active Living in Diverse and Disadvantaged Communities
Guest Editors: Myron F. Floyd, Carlos J. Crespo, James F. Sallis
All papers in this special issue will have open access via

April 2008, 34(4)

Active Living Research in Diverse and Disadvantaged Communities: Stimulating Dialogue and Policy Solutions
Myron F. Floyd, Carlos J. Crespo, James F. Sallis

Research Articles
Neighborhood Disorder, Perceived Safety, and Readiness to Encourage Use of Local Playgrounds
Rebecca Miles

Walkability and Safety around Elementary Schools: Economic and Ethnic Disparities
Xuemei Zhu and Chanam Lee

Promoting Active Living Among People with Physical Disabilities: Evidence for Neighborhood-Level Buoys
Michael Spivock, Lise Gauvin, Mylène Riva and Jean-Marc Brodeur

Park-Based Physical Activity in Diverse Communities of Two U.S. Cities: An Observational Study
Myron F. Floyd, John O. Spengler, Jason E. Maddock, Paul H. Gobster and Luis Suau

Fear of Walking Outdoors: A Multilevel Ecological Analysis of Crime and Disorder
Caterina G. Roman and Aaron Chalfin

Neighborhood Design and Walking: A Quasi-Experimental Longitudinal Study
Nancy M. Wells and Yizhao Yang

Relationships of Urban Containment Policies to Physical Activity: A Time-Series Analysis of Metropolitan Areas, 1990-2002
Semra A. Aytur, Daniel A. Rodríguez, Kelly R. Evenson and Diane J. Catellier

Preventing Childhood Obesity through State Policy: Predictors of Bill Enactment
Tegan K. Boehmer, Douglas A. Luke, Debra Haire-Joshu, Hannalori Bates and Ross C. Brownson

Brief Reports
Critical Factors for Active Transportation to School Among Low-Income and Minority Students: Evidence from the 2001 National Household Travel Survey
Noreen C. McDonald

Physical Activity among Adolescents: When Do Parks Matter?
Susan H. Babey, Theresa A. Hastert, Hongjian Yu and E. Richard Brown

Designed to Deter: Community Barriers to Physical Activity for People with Visual or Motor Impairments
Corinne E. Kirchner, Elaine G. Gerber and Brooke C. Smith

Urban Residents’ Priorities for Neighborhood Features: A Survey of New Orleans Residents After Hurricane Katrina
Traci Hong and Thomas A. Farley

Review Article
Assessing Perceptions of Environments for Active Living
Jack L. Nasar

Reversing the Childhood Obesity Epidemic by Focusing on Policies and Environments
Dwayne C. Proctor

Findings from the 2007 Active Living Research Conference: Implications for Future Research
Charlotte A. Pratt

Active Living in Latino Communities
George R. Flores

Keeping Our Promise to America’s Youth
Kathy J. Spangler

About the American Journal of Preventive Medicine
The American Journal of Preventive Medicine is the official journal of The American College of Preventive Medicine and the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research. It publishes articles in the areas of prevention research, teaching, practice and policy. Original research is published on interventions aimed at the prevention of chronic and acute disease and the promotion of individual and community health. The journal features papers that address the primary and secondary prevention of important clinical, behavioral and public health issues such as injury and violence, infectious disease, women's health, smoking, sedentary behaviors and physical activity, nutrition, diabetes, obesity, and alcohol and drug abuse. Papers also address educational initiatives aimed at improving the ability of health professionals to provide effective clinical prevention and public health services. The journal also publishes official policy statements from the two co-sponsoring organizations, health services research pertinent to prevention and public health, review articles, media reviews, and editorials.

The American Journal of Preventive Medicine is ranked 11th out of 98 Public, Environmental & Occupational Health titles and 16th out of 103 General and Internal Medicine titles according to the Thomson Scientific Institute for Scientific Information's 2006 Journal Citation Reports.

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