Content and Area Income Disparities in Recreation Center Website Promotion of Physical Activity
Physical activity (PA) is associated with numerous health benefits; however, both children and adults in the US fall short of national PA recommendations. Diverse agencies have identified the importance of recreation professionals playing an active role in providing and promoting PA, including via recreation centers. Few studies have examined the contributions public recreation centers make in providing residents with opportunities for PA, and those that exist offer mixed results concerning the influence of neighborhood family income levels.
Recreation center websites are a popular, cost-efficient, and flexible medium for providing information about PA and center programs. We completed a line-by-line analysis of the content of the websites of all public recreation centers (n = 58) in the city of San Diego, California.
We extracted the days and hours the centers operated as well as PA facility types and programs they provided. Program details were identified, including content, frequency/duration for classes, participants targeted, and enrollment costs. Additionally, we generated information about local neighborhoods, including family median income levels.
Diverse statistical analyses were conducted, overall, and by a median split for neighborhood income status. On average, centers had 4.5 PA facilities and were open 59 hours/week, with no differences by neighborhood income. Meanwhile, centers in higher-income areas provided significantly more programs (5.3 vs 2.3). Overall, 33 distinct facility types were identified, but only gymnasia and outdoor basketball courts were listed by over 50% of centers. Fifty distinct programs were identified, with dance, teen center, basketball, and volleyball mentioned most frequently.
Family internet access and the use of websites by recreation centers to post information about programs have grown tremendously within the past decade. Our study is one of the few to conduct a detailed assessment of the content of all public recreation centers in a large city. While the results may not generalize to other cities, we believe our methods will. Website content can be a resource for identifying if current offerings meet program goals and subsequently address income and other disparities. When on-site staff do not have training in creating webpages, a centralized webmaster could help individual centers on content and technology.
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