In 2017, the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) formed a Physical Activity workgroup to foster cross-NCCOR planning and engagement among all partners related to physical activity. The workgroup was stimulated by a September 2016 NCCOR meeting focused on identifying new physical activity projects.
Two project proposals have been approved by the NCCOR Steering Committee: Additional Benefits of Walkability and the Youth Active School Transportation Surveillance Initiative. The projects aim to identify benefits of walkable communities beyond physical activity and provide guidance on improving comprehensive surveillance of youth active school transportation, respectively. Several additional project ideas are also in development.
Additional Benefits of Walkability
Evidence exists for the health impact of walkable communities, but evidence for additional benefits that may create buy-in from other sectors is lacking. Step it Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities describes the need for quantifying additional benefits of environmental design in economic analyses to examine the cost-effectiveness of walking interventions.
This project is aligned closely with a couple of NCCOR’s goals. In convening an expert panel across sectors, including those not traditionally involved in population health, we seek to “build new partnerships to solve problems.” Through the dissemination of our findings, we will be building “capacity for research and surveillance.”
Youth Active School Transportation (AST) Surveillance Initiative
This project will be a first step in addressing several critical gaps in the surveillance of youth AST. Step it Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities highlights gaps in surveillance, specifically the lack of an existing national surveillance system that regularly monitors walking behavior or neighborhood supports for walking in various settings, including schools and communities. Without high-quality, standardized measures, it is not possible to monitor changes in behavior and the environment over time or evaluate the impact of local efforts to promote AST and improve walkability.
To achieve its mission, NCCOR focuses on “supporting researchers with tools that help build the capacity for research and surveillance” and a specific goal is to “work with non-health partners to integrate childhood obesity priorities with synergistic initiatives.” This project directly aligns with these focus areas by supporting the development of high-quality and standardized surveillance measures that can be used by researchers and practitioners.