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Physical Activity Promotion in North Carolina: Perceptions of Public Park and Recreation Directors

Jason N. Bocarro, Jonathan Casper, Karla A. Henderson, Myron F. Floyd, Roger Moore, Michael A. Kanters, Kevin Laven, Michael B. Edwards

Abstract


The contributions of regular physical activity to health and well-being are well-documented. Although a logical connection exists between physical activity promotion and parks and recreation, the role of public parks and recreation settings has been acknowledged only recently by public health professions. Further, one study showed that the majority of city managers across the U.S. believed that parks and recreation departments should be the primary governmental agency addressing the obesity and overweight problem. Despite the increasing recognition of the growing role of parks and recreation, a number of questions remain unanswered about how park and recreation programs are central to physical activity promotion within communities. The purpose of this study was to assess the perceptions of public park and recreation directors concerning physical activity in their communities. The entire population of 216 park and recreation directors in North Carolina were surveyed in May 2007 to determine (a) how park and recreation directors perceived their citizen and political support surrounding physical activity; (b) perceived barriers to being more effective in providing physical activity opportunities, and (c) priorities for the future. Differences within these research questions were also examined based on the type of community (e.g., rural/urban). One hundred and thirty four usable questionnaires were returned yielding a response rate of 64%. The majority of directors (98%) felt that their citizens valued opportunities for physical activity, but less than half of the directors (48%) felt their residents would be willing to pay for additional physical activity amenities. In relation to health disparities, the results showed that directors targeted major efforts toward older adults with less effort focused on adults with disabilities and chronic health issues as well as teens at risk of obesity. Directors perceived that staff related issues, funding, and the quality of facilities and equipment were the most significant barriers. They identified engaging in partnerships and providing a greater diversity of programs as their most significant future priorities. Differences between rural and urban communities were also examined with rural directors perceiving less community support than urban directors. This finding was troubling given the health disparities and documented health related issues that face rural populations more than urban communities Although this study was limited to one state, the results provide a useful foundation for understanding the role of parks and recreation in addressing physical activity opportunities within communities.?

Keywords


barriers, health priorities, physical activity, recreation directors, perceptions, attitudes

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