Evaluation of Active Living Research

Ten Years of Progress in Building a New Field

Children engage in a physical activity break in the classroom at Cleminson Elementary School in El Monte, California.

Active Living Research program--ALR2--meets three major goals of its phase two initiative.

The Issue:

In 2001, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) began a new national program—Active Living Research (ALR)—to develop an interdisciplinary field to study the effects of environmental factors and policies on physical activity in children and families. Now in its second phase of funding, ALR-2 still focuses on environmental and policy research but has redirected its work to inform childhood obesity prevention strategies to align with RWJF's commitment to reverse childhood obesity.

In this retrospective evaluation, the ALR-2 evaluation team has declared successful completion of the program's shorter-term outcomes, and two of its three longer-term outcomes.

Key Findings

  • Goal 1: Establishing a strong research base, was evidenced by 309 grantee publications from 2001 to 2011.

  • Goal 2: Building an interdisciplinary field, was represented by the 31 different disciplines; 28 percent of principal investigators had five years of experience or less, owing to new career opportunities in a legitimate research field.

  • Goal 3: Using research to inform policy and practice, was evidenced by 32 examples of actual policy and practice change, e.g., bicycle and/or pedestrian structures, Safe Routes to School, and school-related policy changes.


Based on recommendations from the evaluation team, in 2012, RWJF reauthorized a third phase of the program—ALR3—with the primary goal of translating research into policy and practice on an accelerated timeline. ALR3 will work to expand partnerships with advocacy and policy-making organizations with a focus on decision-makers.

About the Study:

Qualitative methods utilizing key informant interviews (N = 100) were conducted in 2011 and data from the 2011 ALR Impact Survey, a web-based survey completed by ALR-supported investigators, was collected.