Impact of greenspace improvement on physical activity in a low income community Dubowitz/PI PA-10-027 Regular physical activity (PA) contributes to a variety of positive health outcomes, including the prevention of obesity. Increasing evidence suggests that there are associations between a neighborhood environment conducive to PA (e.g., maintained greenspace) and levels of PA among its residents. However, it is unknown whether self-selection biases account for the associations, or whether geographic accessibility causally leads to greater PA. There have been repeated calls for longitudinal studies that could provide empirical evidence on environmental-level changes and their impact on PA behaviors, to strengthen the evidence base to inform greenspace policies and the use of public funds for environmental interventions, especially in low-income neighborhoods. In the near future, a low-income, predominantly African American neighborhood (the Hill District) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania will undergo a multi-million dollar endeavor to renovate approximately 30 acres of greenspace. This research will capitalize on a rare opportunity to evaluate this large natural experiment by assessing greenspace use and PA before and after renovations as well as changes in physical activity levels as measured by accelerometry among Hill residents relative to residents of Homewood, a demographically similar neighborhood in Pittsburgh that also has very limited greenspace but no immediate plans for renovation. We hypothesize that the greenspace renovations will result in increased PA, including more active transport and utilization of greenspace (i.e., parks, outdoor stairwells, connecting trails). Further, we will examine to the extent to which effects are mediated by social cognitive factors and moderated by perceived accessibility, social cohesion, and safety. We propose three specific aims:
Specific Aim 1 : Determine the impact of greenspace renovations on PA (e.g., minutes of moderate-to- vigorous PA (MVPA), sedentary behavior, active transport), measured by accelerometry and self-report, before renovations and 12 and 24 months post renovations compared to a matched control group.
Specific Aim 2 : Examine greenspace utilization for PA before and after renovations through direct observation and user surveys in the intervention and control neighborhoods.
Specific Aim 3 : Determine to what extent the impact of renovations on PA is: a) mediated by social norms and self-efficacy to engage in PA, and b) moderated by physical proximity to greenspace, perceived accessibility, social cohesion and safety. We will engage a large random sample (n=1320) of households from the Hill District and in Homewood. We will collect individual-level, greenspace utilization, and greenspace user data at baseline, 6-12 months and at 18 - 24 months post- renovations.

Public Health Relevance

Impact of greenspace improvement on physical activity in a low income community Dubowitz/PI PA-10-027 Project Narrative Changing the built environment, particularly greenspace renovation, is a way to increase spatial access to opportunities for physical activity, especially in low-income minority neighborhoods. Limited research has been adequately designed to assess the causal impact of environmental interventions on physical activity. Our study will employ rigorous measures of physical activity to evaluate a well-powered, natural experiment to determine whether greenspace renovation can increase physical activity in lower-income, urban African Americans, a critical step to reducing obesity and eliminating health disparities in the United States.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Research Project (R01)
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Community-Level Health Promotion Study Section (CLHP)
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Reedy, Jill
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Rand Corporation
Santa Monica
United States
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Flórez, Karen R; Ghosh-Dastidar, Madhumita Bonnie; Beckman, Robin et al. (2016) The Power of Place: Social Network Characteristics, Perceived Neighborhood Features, and Psychological Distress Among African Americans in the Historic Hill District in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Am J Community Psychol 58:60-8
Cohen, Deborah A; Hunter, Gerald; Williamson, Stephanie et al. (2016) Are Food Deserts Also Play Deserts? J Urban Health 93:235-43
Stein, Bradley D; Dubowitz, Tamara (2015) Rx exercise: physical activity is good medicine. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 54:795-6
Dubowitz, Tamara; Ghosh-Dastidar, Madhumita Bonnie; Steiner, Elizabeth et al. (2013) Are our actions aligned with our evidence? The skinny on changing the landscape of obesity. Obesity (Silver Spring) 21:419-20