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Active Living for Rural Youth: Addressing Physical Inactivity in Rural Communities

Yousefian, Anush MS; Ziller, Erika MS; Swartz, Jon BA; Hartley, David PhD

Journal of Public Health Management & Practice:
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e3181a11822
Article
Abstract

Rural youth are at greater risk than urban youth for obesity and physical inactivity. Active living research incorporates an ecological approach to promoting physical activity (PA) by recognizing that individual behavior, social environments, physical environments, and policies contribute to behavior change. Active living research and interventions have been limited primarily to urban settings. Because rural communities have unique environmental features and sociocultural characteristics, this project combines insights from current active living models with more focused consideration of the physical and social realities of rural areas. In this study, we report on our efforts to develop, test, and refine a conceptual model describing the interaction between the individual and the environment as it enhances or thwarts active living in rural communities. Our findings revealed a host of relevant “predisposing” and “enabling” factors, including sociodemographic, environmental, policy, and programmatic elements, that extend across the four domains of active living-–transportation, recreation, occupation, and household. A one-size approach to PA promotion will not fit the needs of rural youth. Given the unique challenges that rural communities face, efforts to combat childhood obesity must consider rural residents a priority population. More research, interventions, and evaluations on ways to promote rural PA are needed.

In Brief

This study reports efforts to develop, test, and refine a conceptual model describing the interaction between the individual and the environment as it enhances or thwarts active living in rural communities.

Author Information

Anush Yousefian, MS, is Research Analyst, Maine Rural Health Research Center, Institute for Health Policy, Muskie School of Public Service, University of Southern Maine, Portland, Maine.

Erika Ziller, MS, is Research Associate, Maine Rural Health Research Center, Institute for Health Policy, Muskie School of Public Service, University of Southern Maine, Portland, Maine.

is Graduate Assistant, Maine Rural Health Research Center, Institute for Health Policy, Muskie School of Public Service, University of Southern Maine, Portland, Maine.

David Hartley, PhD, is Research Professor and Director, Maine Rural Health Research Center, Institute for Health Policy, Muskie School of Public Service, University of Southern Maine, Portland, Maine.

Corresponding Author: Anush Yousefian, MS, Maine Rural Health Research Center, Institute for Health Policy, Muskie School of Public Service, University of Southern Maine, PO Box 9300, Portland, Maine 04104.

This study was funded under a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (grant no. 59455). The conclusions and opinions expressed in the study are the authors', and no endorsement by the University of Southern Maine or the sponsor is intended or should be inferred. Additional support was provided by the federal Office of Rural Health Policy, HRSA, USDHHS, CA#U1CRH03716.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.