SURVEY TOOL DEVELOPED AT UH MEASURES PHSYICAL
PARA Evaluates Quantity and Quality of Recreational Choices
HOUSTON, October 25, 2005—A new assessment tool, developed
by a University of Houston professor, measures the quality and quantity
of physical activity resources available in neighborhoods and could
provide information to urban planners as they create new living
The Physical Activity Resource Assessment (PARA) instrument is
a survey that rates the number of physical activity resources in
a neighborhood, the quality of the resources and the accessibility
to residents. Forty-nine descriptions are rated on a scale of 0
to 3, with 3 being good.
“Given the consistently low rates of physical activity in
the United States it is important to develop an understanding of
neighborhood factors that influence physical activity,” Rebecca
Lee, professor in the UH Health and Human Performance Department
and lead investigator of the assessment, said. “Our research
found that if you are living in a poor area, the quality of physical
activity resources decrease dramatically.”
Lee’s study, “Evaluating Features, Amenities and Incivilities
of Physical Activity Resources in Urban Neighborhoods,” used
the PARA to survey the physical activity resources in 13 low-income
neighborhoods in Kansas City area. She compared the findings to
four higher-income neighborhoods that were similar in population,
density and design. She found that low-income neighborhoods had
on average two fewer resources (parks, community centers, school
yards) than those in the comparison neighborhoods and that “incivilities”—lack
of paint, trash, no growing grass, too much grass, unkempt curbs,
wandering dogs—were more significant.
“You may be more likely to walk if there is a park nearby,
if it is not littered with trash and if you feel safe,” Lee
said. “My previous research has found that there are fewer
nutritious food choices in lower income neighborhoods, so to couple
that with the finding that the number and quality of places to exercise
in low income neighborhoods are poor should be cause for alarm.”
City planners in Atlanta will use PARA to survey their parks next
year. Lee adds that she is hopeful other urban planners will take
note as they create new living spaces and pay particular attention
to quality of leisure space.
Lee’s study is published in the International Journal of
Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.
For more information on the UH Health and Human Performance Department,
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