Physical Activity

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.

Three project proposals have been approved by the NCCOR Steering Committee: Additional Benefits of Walkability, Youth Active School Transportation (AST) Surveillance Initiative, and Increasing Opportunities for Trail Use to Promote Physical Activity and Health Among Underserved Youth. These projects aim to identify benefits of walkable communities beyond physical activity; provide guidance on improving comprehensive surveillance of youth AST; and understand how to increase trail use among underserved youth, 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. This project aims to quantify the additional benefits of social cohesion and injury prevention associated with increased walkability.

By convening an expert panel across sectors, including those not traditionally involved in population health, and disseminating the findings, this project closely aligns with NCCOR’s goals to “build new partnerships to solve problems” and “build 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 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 aims to improve public health surveillance of youth AST across three content areas: Youth AST behaviors, environmental supports for AST, and program and policy supports for AST.

Through supporting the development of high-quality and standardized surveillance measures that can be used by researchers and practitioners, this project directly aligns with NCCOR’s focus on “supporting researchers with tools that help build the capacity for research and surveillance.” It also supports NCCOR’s specific goal to “work with non-health partners to integrate childhood obesity priorities with synergistic initiatives.”

Increasing Opportunities for Trail Use to Promote Physical Activity and Health Among Underserved Youth

Youth from underserved communities and diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds are underrepresented users of trails. These youth also are less likely to meet the minimal national standards for physical activity, and more likely to suffer from negative health effects related to lack of physical activity. Step it Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities calls for all sectors of society to make walking a national priority and to “link organizations and programs to ensure that underserved groups and people with disabilities have opportunities to walk.”

This project aims to identify what is known about the benefits of trail use (urban, non-urban, and/or more remote 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, especially for youth from underserved communities.

In focusing on intervening among “high risk” youth and working with several organizations that traditionally do not have health as a primary mission, including the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. National Park Service, and U.S. Department of Transportation, this project closely aligns with NCCOR’s goals to “identify, design, and evaluate practical and sustainable interventions, especially in high-risk populations and communities;” and to “work with non-health partners to integrate childhood obesity priorities with synergistic initiatives.”