Perceived and measured environmental barriers to physical activity among minority youth in East Austin



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Two prospective studies were conducted to examine the social and built environmental barriers to physical activity among middle childhood youth in a low income, minority, urban community. The mixed method design first explored parent and child perceptions related to the social and built environmental barriers to middle childhood, ages 8-12, physical activity (PA) for families residing in East Austin, and then compared those to barriers identified by a systematic objective assessment of the neighborhoods of residence. Study 1 was a qualitative study where middle childhood-aged students and their parents participated in six parent-only and student-only focus groups. The focus group prompts encouraged discussion of the participants's perceptions of built and social environmental barriers to PA within their community. The parents identified traffic, crime, limited programming at local PA sites and technology, such as video games and television, as barriers to middle childhood PA. While the students discussed traffic and crime, they expressed less concern than their parents, and although they acknowledged that television and video games competed with PA, they expressed a desire for more family PA. Study 2 was an environmental study incorporating spatial analysis and systematic objective observation. Five East Austin neighborhoods were selected from those represented by the Study 1 participants. The neighborhoods and nearby recreational sites were mapped. Built environmental barriers were located and crime and traffic data were incorporated for each specific neighborhood. The measured barriers were then compared to the perceived barriers from Study 1. The spatial analysis revealed that the youth of East Austin have access to many parks and PA sites. Built environmental barriers included railroad tracks; traffic danger and fenced commercial properties blocking access. Social environmental barriers included limited age-appropriate programming for middle childhood-aged youth.