Public parks and public health: A community-based participatory approach to understanding the nexus of neighborhood disorder and physical activity in public parks

Authors: Jason Douglas*, San Jose State University
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Gender, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: Community-Based Participatory Research, Public Parks, Physical Activity, Public Health
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Napoleon A2, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Public parks are important community settings that afford a range of active and passive recreational activities. For example, public parks are ideal for promoting physical activity (PA) in the urban context, which is broadly associated with improved community health and reduced risk of chronic disease. Yet, concerning escalations in overweight and obesity prevalence and associated decreases in PA have been noted in urban communities of color, such as San José, CA. In the San José context, community members contend that public parks are not safe due to activities associated with neighborhood disorder—e.g., public drinking and gang activity—thus reducing community PA opportunities. To explore this issue further, the current study employed a community-based participatory research approach to develop a grounded understanding of the nexus of neighborhood disorder and PA in urban public parks to inform public policy addressing chronic disease in at-risk populations. The study utilized the System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities to document physical activity levels of park users. The Physical Activity Resource Assessment was used to document observed indicators of neighborhood disorder in public parks. Study findings revealed neighborhood disorder generally predicted PA reductions. This is particularly concerning, as Latina/o community members, those categorized as high-risk for overweight and obesity, are the predominant park users in the study area. Based on these results, community members are working with decision makers to advocate for remediation of public park incivilities characterized by neighborhood disorder to improve PA opportunities, particularly for Latina/o park users.

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