Assessing environmental support for better health: Active living opportunity audits in rural communities in the southern United States

Academic Article


  • Objective: Leisure-time physical activity in the United States is lower rural areas and the South and has been linked to socioeconomic and environmental aspects of where people live. The purpose of this study is to assess the built environment and policies for physical activity in rural communities. Methods: Eight rural communities in Alabama and Mississippi were assessed in 2011 using the Rural Active Living Assessment (RALA) street segment (SSA), town-wide (TWA), and town program and policies (PPA) assessment tools. Community Health Advisors Trained as Research Partners (CHARPS) and local staff conducted the assessments. The TWA and PPA were scored by domain and total scores. Data were analyzed using descriptive and nonparametric statistics. Results: 117 segments were assessed in 22 towns in 8 counties. Built environmental barriers existed in all communities. Sidewalks were available in only 10-40% of the segments. TWA identified parks and playgrounds as the most available community feature. PPA scores indicated few policies for physical activity outside of school settings with mean scores higher in Mississippi compared to Alabama (61 vs. 49, respectively). Conclusions: Multiple components of rural communities can be successfully assessed by CHARPs using RALA tools, providing information about resources and barriers for physical activity. © 2014 .
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Robinson JC; Carson TL; Johnson ER; Hardy CM; Shikany JM; Green E; Willis LM; Marron JV; Li Y; Lee CH
  • Start Page

  • 28
  • End Page

  • 33
  • Volume

  • 66