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

Ariane L. Bedimo-Rung, Jeanette Gustat, Bradley J. Tompkins, Janet Rice, and Jessica Thomson


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.

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The Condition of Neighborhood Parks Following Hurricane Katrina: Development of a Post-Hurricane Assessment Instrument

Ariane L. Bedimo-Rung, Jessica L. Thomson, Andrew J. Mowen, Jeanette Gustat, Bradley J. Tompkins, Patricia K. Strikmiller, and Melinda S. Sothern


Parks provide environments for physical activity, yet little is known about how natural disasters affect them or how these disasters alter physical activity. Our objectives were to (1) describe the development of an instrument to assess park conditions following a hurricane and (2) document the conditions of New Orleans’ parks 3 and 6 months after Hurricane Katrina.


A Post-Hurricane Assessment (PHA) instrument was developed and implemented in 54 parks 3 and 6 months post-hurricane.


Summary scores of the Park Damage Index and the Neighborhood Damage Index showed improvement between 3 and 6 months of data collection. Parks and neighborhoods most affected by the hurricane were located in the most- and least-affluent areas of the city.


The PHA proved to be a promising tool for assessing park conditions in a timely manner following a natural disaster and allowed for the creation of summary damage scores to correlate to community changes.