Enhancing Youth Access to Community Recreation Facilities: An Effectiveness Evaluation of the Grade 10 Community Physical Activity Pass
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Given the high prevalence of physical inactivity, effective strategies are urgently needed to increase physical activity levels among youth, especially those most at risk for inactivity including adolescent girls, older adolescents, and youth from low socioeconomic status households. A clear understanding of the factors associated with physical activity among youth is needed to design effective interventions. Physical activity is a complex behaviour that is influenced by intrapersonal, interpersonal, and environmental factors. Most recently, emphasis has been placed on the environmental correlates of youth physical activity. One consistent finding is that access to recreation facilities and opportunities to be active are positively associated with youths’ physical activity participation. Environmental interventions, which are often community-based, hold particular promise of instilling population-wide change. Yet, to date, little information is available about the effectiveness of environmental interventions to enhance youth physical activity in community settings. The manuscript presented in Chapter 3 of this thesis addresses these gaps in knowledge by providing evidence about a community-based initiative designed to increase access to recreation facilities by eliminating facility user-fees for youth. More specifically, recreation facility use among adolescents (n=1261; Mage = 14.97 ± 0.39; 46.3% girls) was objectively measured and the factors associated with the use of recreation facilities were examined. A total of 200 students accessed at least one facility. Results revealed that the likelihood of the best multilevel model examining pass use was 13 times larger than a model that included only individual-level predictors (p< 0.01). Pass users were more likely to: attend schools that were only a short distance away from facilities (OR=0.90 p< 0.01), be active (OR=1.69, p< 0.05), rate their health as fair (OR=2.32, p< 0.05), report homework as a barrier (OR=1.84, p< 0.01) and to have used facilities previously (OR=2.01, p< 0.05). Overall, results suggest that providing free access may be insufficient to enable adolescents to use recreation facilities. Furthermore, an ecological model should be used when designing interventions that aim to increase adolescents’ use of facilities. The implications of this study for research and practice will be outlined. Although further research is greatly needed to enhance our understanding of youths’ behaviours in order to develop effective interventions, the challenges associated with conducting research involving youth can deter researchers from investigating this population. In particular, several researchers have highlighted the methodological and ethical concerns of school-based research. These issues and their implications will be discussed in Chapter 4 of this thesis. Lastly, recommendations to help reduce the challenges of school-based research will be presented.