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Predictors of Children’s Active Commuting to School: an Observational Evaluation in Five US Communities

Authors: Jason A. Mendoza, David Cowan, and Yan Liu

Affiliations: Mendoza and Liu are with the Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX. Cowan is with Program Evaluation, Safe Routes to School National Partnership, Englewood, CO.

Acceptance Date: January 1, 2013

Few reports examined long term predictors of children’s active commuting to school (walking or cycling to school, ACS).

Purpose: To identify predictors of ACS over one school year among a sample of children with relatively high rates of ACS.

Methods: Parents were surveyed in September 2010 (Time 1) and April 2011 (Time 2). The dependent variable was children’s commuting mode to school (active versus passive). Independent variables included: 1) parents’ outcome expectations (from Social Cognitive Theory: the expected risks/benefits for their child doing ACS), 2) distance to school, 3) participation in an adult-led walk to school group, 4) temperature, and 5) child demographics. Generalized mixed-models estimated odds ratios for ACS (n=369 or 49.7% of Time 1 respondents).

Results: Males (OR=2.59, 95% CI [1.57-4.30]), adult-led walk to school group participation (OR=1.80, 95% CI [1.14-2.86]), parents’ outcome expectations (OR=1.26, 95% CI [1.14-1.39]), temperature (OR=1.03, 95% CI [1.01-1.07), distance to school (OR=0.23, 95% CI [0.14-0.37]), and Latino ethnicity (OR=0.28, 95% CI [0.12-0.65]) were associated with ACS.

Conclusions: Programs and policies sensitive to parents’ concerns, e.g. adult-led walk to school groups, and targeting Latinos and girls appear promising for increasing ACS.

Authors: Jason A. Mendoza

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