Evaluation of physical projects and policies from the Active Living by Design partnerships

Kelly R Evenson, James F Sallis, Susan L Handy, Rich Bell, Laura K Brennan
American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2012, 43 (5): S309-19

BACKGROUND: Between 2003 and 2008, a total of 25 partnerships funded through the Active Living by Design (ALbD) program worked to change built environments and policies in communities to help citizens be active in their daily routines.

PURPOSE: This paper systematically summarized the scope of ALbD physical projects and policy changes, described resources generated by the partnerships, and highlighted supports and barriers to the process.

METHODS: Using a mixed-methods approach, multiple data sources, including key informant interviews, focus groups, and a web-based tracking system, were used to collect data during project implementation. Qualitative results were analyzed using systematic coding procedures to identify themes, ideas, and concepts derived from the data. Data analysis occurred in 2008-2010.

RESULTS: Most of the 25 partnerships documented physical projects and policy changes in each of the following sectors: urban planning (n=16); active transportation (n=23); trails/parks/recreation/open space (n=22); communities (n=22); and schools (n=18). ALbD community partnerships were successful at generating ≈ $256 million in resources beyond their initial grant, mostly through policy changes. Challenges included creating and sustaining political will and community support as well as securing technical expertise and resources. Planning and relationship building were critical to success in changing policy and implementing projects.

CONCLUSIONS: Although there is more to understand about how these change processes affect physical activity and health across populations and settings, as well as how social, cultural, and psychosocial factors influence community responses to the policy changes and physical projects, findings from this initiative provide a foundation for subsequent research and practice.

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