Measuring Physical Environments of Parks and Playgrounds: EAPRS Instrument Development and Inter-Rater Reliability

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Reliable and comprehensive measurement of physical activity settings is needed to examine environment-behavior relations.


Surveyed park professionals (n = 34) and users (n = 29) identified park and playground elements (e.g., trail) and qualities (e.g., condition). Responses guided observational instrument development for environmental assessment of public recreation spaces (EAPRS). Item inter-rater reliability was evaluated following observations in 92 parks and playgrounds. Instrument revision and further reliability testing were conducted with observations in 21 parks and 20 playgrounds.


EAPRS evaluates trail/path, specific use (e.g., picnic), water-related, amenity (e.g., benches), and play elements, and their qualities. Most EAPRS items had good-excellent reliability, particularly presence/number items. Reliability improved from the original (n = 1088 items) to revised (n = 646 items) instrument for condition, coverage/shade, and openness/visibility items. Reliability was especially good for play features, but cleanliness items were generally unreliable.


The EAPRS instrument provides comprehensive assessment of parks’ and playgrounds’ physical environment, with generally high reliability.

Saelens is with the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, OH. Frank is with Lawrence Frank & Co., Atlanta, GA. Auffrey is with the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH. Whitaker is with Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., Princeton, NJ. Burdette is with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA. Colabianchi is with Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH.