Getting the Message Home and the Children Outdoor : Parents Perceptions of Barriers and Facilitators to Enrolling Their Children in a Summer Outdoor Activity Program
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Abstract Background The decrease in children’s outdoor activity and its associated health impacts form the basis for health promotion initiatives to encourage children's outdoor activity. As gatekeepers to their children’s participation in registered programs, parents must be convinced that the benefits of enrollment in such programs outweigh the costs. A guiding framework is thus needed to help recreation providers identify critical program components and effective messages to attract parents. Purpose The main purpose of this study was to gain insight into parental perceptions of barriers and facilitators to enrolling their children in an outdoor activity program in order to inform the development of an action planning framework for recreation providers. A secondary purpose was to apply the framework to an existing summer activity program implemented by the City of Kingston department of recreation. Methods This qualitative study was guided by Social Marketing principles (i.e., the “4 P’s”: Product, Price, Promotion, Place). Key informants, 18 parents of children 4 to12 years old from 16 different neighbourhoods located in a mid-size Canadian city, participated in 4 focus groups and 7 interviews. Sessions were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data analysis involved both deductive and inductive content analysis. Results Parental intentions to enrol their children in an outdoor activity program were shown to be influenced by barriers and facilitators, related to Product and Price, contained within the following themes, ranked from most to least influential: program safety, program social environment, program structure, child preferences, cost and convenience, skills development, variety of activities, community, the local level, and, staff engagement. The influence of these themes on parental intentions seems to be moderated by the theme of Information transfer, related to Promotion. Place was not found to influence intentions. For each theme, a continuum emerged, encompassing both positive and negative influences (e.g. high program safety to lack of program safety) upon parents’ intentions to enrol their children in an outdoor activity program. Conclusions The Social Marketing Framework is useful to inform the development of an action planning framework for recreation providers seeking to enhance enrollment in their outdoor activity programs.