Neighborhood assessment of the environment for physical activity: Engaging adolescents within an under-resourced community

Online Publication Date:
March 24, 2023
Publication Status:
Published Article MUSE Link:
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**Published in Progress in Community Health Partnerships (PCHP) 17.4. All rights reserved.**


Background: Physical activity participation has many benefits; however, rates of participation remain low, particularly among underserved populations which may face low physical activity participation due to having poorer quality of built environment factors which is a known influence on activity levels.
Objectives: To train adolescents to conduct environmental neighborhood assessments and neighborhood resident surveys of with the end goal of encouraging advocacy for neighborhood improvements.
Methods: This mixed methods, prospective design study was focused in a low-income, under-resourced, predominately African American neighborhood in Pittsburgh. Adolescents (n=14, 13-17 years) in a community partner’s youth program were trained to conduct neighborhood environmental assessments and distributed neighborhood resident surveys. Results of these assessments were shared with community partners to create strategies for improvement. These adolescents participated in a focus group following the environmental assessments to reflect on their findings and the process. The neighborhood resident survey (n=123) assessed demographics, perceptions of the neighborhood, PA participation and health outcomes.
Results: Neighborhood assessments noted and resident surveys noted many barriers to activity (i.e. poor sidewalks, unsafe areas). Results were informative for our community partner to advocate for neighborhood improvements. Focus group results indicated that the adolescents understood how their neighborhood environment could influence physical activity and how the findings could be utilized to make improvements in their neighborhood.
Conclusions: Adolescents can be successfully trained/educated to follow a research protocol for assessing the built environment for physical activity using a variety of measurement tools, while additionally gaining insight towards neighborhood environment advocacy.