Policy interventions such as zoning ordinances, school facility siting guidelines, capital improvement programs, and park master plans hold particular promise for promoting physical activity, especially at the local level. Despite increasing attention to the relationship between built environment characteristics and physical activity, there is a paucity of research on the extent to which local policies can promote or hinder physical activity. Furthermore, the impact of local policies on physical activity should depend on how effectively the policies are implemented. Based on the policy implementation literature and using Montgomery County, Maryland, as a case study, this study identifies factors related to the successful implementation of local policies hypothesized to influence physical activity. For our study, we conducted an extensive policy review and 17 in-depth interviews with 26 individuals. The interviews were transcribed, coded, and analyzed to identify the relevant factors that affect policy implementation. Our findings suggest that knowledge and awareness, commitment and capacity, intergovernmental coordination, the presence of an advocate or champion, and conflict influence physical activity policy implementation at the local level. Those trying to increase physical activity through policy could focus on these implementation features to help make policy implementation more successful.
• Using Montgomery County, Maryland, as a case study, this study identifies factors related to the successful implementation of local policies hypothesized to influence physical activity.
David Salvesen, PhD, is Deputy Director, Center for Sustainable Community Design, Institute for the Environment, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill.
Kelly R. Evenson, PhD, is a Research Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill School of Public Health and a fellow with the American College of Sports Medicine.
Daniel A. Rodriguez, PhD, is Associcate Professor, Department of City and Regional Planning, and Director of the Carolina Transportation Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Austin Brown, MPH, is a Research Associate, Highway Safety Research Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he works on pedestrian and bicycle related projects, particular Safe Routes to School.
Corresponding Author: David Salvesen, PhD, Center for Sustainable Community Design, Institute for the Environment, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill 27599 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Funding for this project was provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention #U48/DP000059–01. This study was also partly supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Active Living Research program. The authors thank Carrie Fesperman and Adena Messinger for their assistance. We also thank the participants in Montgomery County who shared their time and insights with us.