A Community Survey on Neighborhood Violence, Park Use, and Physical Activity Among Urban Youth

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background:

Neighborhoods can be an important feature of the built environment influencing physical activity; however, neighborhood poverty and violence may pose significant barriers for youth physical activity. We conducted a community survey of 107 households with youth 3–12 years of age in select neighborhoods of the city of Newark, New Jersey, a highly impoverished and racially/ethnically segregated city of the United States.

Results:

The majority of sampled households did not have access to a park, and nearly 60% of youth were not engaged in a team or organized physical activity program. Hearing gunshots and seeing drug deals in the neighborhood were reported by 74% and 56%, respectively, of study participants. In adjusted regression models, a 1-unit increase in self-reported neighborhood safety was associated with perceptions that parks were safe for youth to use (OR = 1.7, CI = 1.3, 2.3) and increased odds of youth using parks (OR = 1.3, CI = 1.0, 1.6). Self-reported neighborhood violence was marginally associated with lower levels of Metabolic Equivalent (MET)-min/week of moderate PA (β = –54.25, P = .05).

Conclusion:

To ensure national goals of increased physical activity and use of outdoor spaces, addressing the neighborhood contexts under which the most vulnerable of our youth live will be required.

Echeverria and Luan Kang are with the Dept of Epidemiology, Rutgers School of Public Health, Piscataway, NJ. Isasi is with the Dept of Epidemiology and Population Health, Yeshiva University, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY. Johnson-Dias is with the Dept of Sociology, City University of New York, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Brooklyn, NY. Pacquiao is with the Dept of Urban Health, Rutgers School of Nursing, Newark, NJ.