New Orleans residents are more active when they have a public walking path in their neighborhoods, according to a recently published Tulane University study.
The Prevention Research Center at Tulane University (PRC) measured residents’ activity levels in the St. Roch neighborhood in 2006 and 2008, before and after the PRC helped build a six-block walking path along the neutral ground on St Roch Avenue. Observed outdoor activity increased by nearly 12 percent in the neighborhood after the path was installed.
“What we saw was a significant increase in outdoor activity compared to two other neighborhoods that did not have a walking path,” said Dr. Jeanette Gustat, lead author on the paper published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.
The project, called Partnership for an Active Community Environment (PACE), collected data in St. Roch and two comparison neighborhoods through observations taken of people being active outside on streets, sidewalks, and public areas. The study found that physical activity levels in St. Roch increased compared to the other two neighborhoods without walking paths or other public recreation spaces. The two comparison neighborhoods had similar demographic compositions, neighborhood characteristics, and percentage of residents who participated in physical activity before the path was built.
The PACE study was designed with input from a steering committee comprised of members of local community organizations. As a result of that committee’s recommendations, PACE and the city of New Orleans built the 8-foot-wide walking path on the tree-covered neutral ground of St. Roch Avenue in 2007.
“Minor changes to the built environment, like walking paths, can make a difference to physical activity levels and health of residents,” Gustat said.
Originally published in Tulane New Wave