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. At the Senior Leadership Briefing in 2015, NCCOR began to consider opportunities for more engagement in the area of physical activity, given the evolving research on the importance of physical activity to obesity prevention and overall health in children. The Physical Activity workgroup was formed as a result of a September 2016 NCCOR meeting focused on identifying new physical activity projects.
Each of these projects builds on Step it Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities. These projects aim to identify benefits of walkable communities beyond physical activity; provide guidance on improving comprehensive surveillance of youth active travel to school; understand how to increase trail use among underserved youth; and identify common economic indicators and methods to help public health practitioners make the business case for built environment and land sue improvements to increase physical activity, respectively.
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 developing measures and tools to quantify additional benefits of walkability to evaluate and examine the effectiveness of interventions. NCCOR formed the Additional Benefits of Walkability subgroup to address this need. This project aims to quantify the additional benefits of social cohesion and injury prevention associated with increased walkability.
In February 2018, NCCOR began conducting a literature review to quantify social cohesion and injury prevention benefits associated with increased walkability. The literature review was completed in 2019, and the workgroup plans to publish results in 2020.
Economic Impact of Built Environment Improvements
Recognizing a need to justify investments in the creation of activity-friendly communities that extend beyond health arguments, NCCOR launched a new workgroup in the summer of 2019. This new workgroup, Economic Impact of Built Environment Improvements, is tasked with identifying common economic indicators and methods to help public health practitioners make the business case for built environment and land use improvements to increase physical activity.
The workgroup is currently hosting five virtual discussion groups with experts representing disciplines outside of public health such as housing, transportation, and environmental development. The information from the discussion groups will inform the development of a toolkit that will help public health practitioners make an economic case for built environment improvements.
Youth Active Travel to School (ATS) Surveillance Initiative
Step it Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities highlights gaps in surveillance, specifically the absence of an existing national surveillance system that regularly monitors walking behavior, or neighborhood supports for walking in various settings, including schools and communities. This project is a first step in addressing several critical gaps in the surveillance of youth ATS. This project aims to improve public health surveillance of youth ATS across three content areas: Youth ATS behaviors, environmental supports for ATS, and program and policy supports for ATS.
In 2018, NCCOR conducted a literature review to describe the existing surveillance of youth ATS and identify measures that have been used to assess ATS. The results will be shared in the coming year. This subgroup is planning a workshop in 2020 to address key challenges related to measurement and surveillance of youth active travel to school and related environmental, policy, and program supports.
Increasing Opportunities for Trail Use to Promote Physical Activity and Health Among Underserved Youth
Step it Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities highlights promoting program and policies to support walking through creation of or enhanced access to places for walking with informational outreach, social support, individually-adapted health behavior change programs, and community-wide campaigns. The Increasing Opportunities for Trail Use to Promote Physical Activity and Health Among Underserved Youth project aims to identify what is known about the benefits of trail use, effective interventions or programs to promote trail use among underserved youth, and the facilitators and barriers related to trail use as a health-enhancing behavior among youth. In October 2020, NCCOR published Identification of Effective Programs to Improve Acess to and Use of Trails among Youth from Under-Resourced Communities: A Review in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.