Development of a Direct Observation Instrument to Measure Environmental Characteristics of Parks for Physical Activity

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
Restricted access


The study’s purpose is to describe the development and evaluate the reliability (inter-observer agreement) and validity (rater agreement with a gold standard) of a direct observation instrument to assess park characteristics that may be related to physical activity.


A direct observation instrument of 181 items was developed based on a conceptual model consisting of the following domains: features, condition, access, esthetics, and safety. Fifteen pairs of observers were trained and sent to two parks simultaneously to assess two Target Areas each.


Overall domain reliability was 86.9%, and overall geographic area reliability was 87.5%. Overall domain validity was 78.7% and overall geographic area validity was 81.5%.


Inter-rater reliability and validity were generally good, although validity was slightly lower than reliability. Objective items showed the highest reliability and validity. Items that are time-sensitive may need to be measured on multiple occasions, while items asking for subjective responses may require more supervised practice.

Bedimo-Rung, Tompkins, and Thomson are with the Louisiana State University School of Public Health, New Orleans, LA 70112. Gustat and Rice are with the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, LA 70112.