PAB successfully developed and implemented a rigorous needs assessment with local relevance and important implications for public health research on physical activity and the environment. In December 2002, Mayor Menino hosted a community press conference to release the key findings report (7
). City officials, program providers, parents, and youths attended. He applauded PAB's data, calling the report a "playbook" for future sports and recreation planning by the city of Boston and its partners and stating, "For several years we have only had anecdotal information about the need to get more of Boston's young people involved in physical activity. PAB gives us scientific evidence that we have more work to do" (10
). To date, more than 300 copies of the report have been distributed both locally and nationally. PAB also produced Active Facts online (11
), a series of neighborhood-specific briefs, to provide information on programs and facilities.
Several local initiatives have incorporated findings to improve programming and resource allocation. Sport in Society uses PAB data as they address disparities in participation by increasing the number of sporting opportunities available. Boston Steps (12
), a U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services initiative at the Boston Public Health Commission, is adapting PAB methodologies to examine adult recreation. Jump Up & Go (13
), a project of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, and the Boston Youth Sports Network (14
), a project designed to connect resources for local programs through a youth sports coordinator, have used the data to prioritize neighborhood resource allocation. As a result of the documented sex disparities in PAB, a group of foundations began working with the Women's Sports Foundation in 2003 to award more than $600,000 to Boston organizations to create and expand youth sports programs for girls from 2004 through 2007 (14
). In a change that required no outside funding, the Shelburne Community Center in Roxbury, Mass, implemented biweekly mother-and-daughter aerobics classes as a result. In addition, researchers at HPRC, along with the Women's Law Foundation, cowrote a report on Title IX in Massachusetts (15
). In addition, one of the comparison communities used in this study prepared a report for its own city's health alliance for internal planning use.
The city of Boston lists participating PAB programs in The Mayor's Youthline (16
), a database of resources for Boston youth and their parents created by Boston teenagers; the Boston Youth Zone (17
), a Web-based resource for teenagers and their parents; and the Boston Guide to Youth Services (18
), a print resource. These resources help educate parents, teachers, community advocates, pediatricians, and youth about which sports and physical activities are available near where they live.
PAB benefited from strong and creative partners and stakeholders dedicated to improving Boston's after-school resources for youths and their families. The project and its partners continue to be committed to the findings and the process of developing a culture of colearning through the use of community-based participatory research. A hallmark of a genuine participatory process is that the shape and focus of research over time may change as participants refocus their understanding about what is happening in the community and what is really important to them (19
Because PAB focused on youth physical activity opportunities outside of school programming, future assessments might also include school-based programs and examine more closely program quality (e.g., staff qualifications, staff-to-participant ratios). Additionally, other factors that may limit access to programs (e.g., costs, hours of operation) and strategies that may produce more reliable estimates of unique numbers of participants and their demographic characteristics (e.g., using standard intake forms for all youth programs, voluntary reporting standards for programs) could potentially improve the assessment protocol. These areas were not fully assessed by our PAB methodology but could be important factors, depending on community interests and needs.
Following the summary report (7
), the PAB group continued to work with local municipal, educational, and city planners to address Healthy People 2010
goals on increasing time spent in physical activity and reducing time spent in inactivity and watching television. Current initiatives with Sport in Society, Boston Centers for Youth & Families, and Boston Steps focus on developing a sustainable monitoring system for physical activity resources. Planned uses of PAB data include analyzing facility over- and underuse with the Boston Parks and Recreation Department and improving access to school physical activity spaces and facilities for all people during nonschool hours.
Sparked by the enthusiasm of the BYSC, the energy in Boston was rich for PAB. Communities dedicated to the health of young people and interested in using a community-focused approach to reduce disparities in access to physical activity may benefit from PAB's inclusive participatory methods.