Assessment for Active Living

Harnessing the Power of Data-Driven Planning and Action

All community partnerships funded through Active Living by Design (ALbD) conducted some form of community assessment. Resulting data helped develop understanding of the community and determine appropriate interventions, while community involvement in the assessment process itself fostered community engagement and support.

The ALbD initiative funded 25 community partnerships across the U.S. from 2003-2008; these partnerships were charged with using five “community action” strategies to change environments and policies to make it easier for people to lead active daily lives. While ALbD did not specify expectations nor designate grant funds for community assessments, the initiative did share some assessment tools and training with the partnerships. Part of a three-year cross-site evaluation started in Year Three of ALbD funding, this study uses data from focus groups, interviews, and the ALbD Progress Reporting System to examine community assessments conducted by the partnerships.

Key Findings:

  • All partnerships did some form of community assessment: 22 of 25 conducted audits—usually walking audits by professionals, advocates or community members—of the built environment, while surveys and focus groups were also common.
  • The partnerships used community assessments to gather data to identify, prioritize and refine their implementation.
  • Involving community members in early assessment efforts helped build constituencies for change that supported success during design, planning, and implementation.
  • Some partnerships used data collected through community assessments for focused advocacy, an “opportunistic and practical” use of data for community action.

The most effective community assessments were likely those that identified specific barriers to physical activity, such as broken sidewalks. But the assessment processes themselves built community collaborations that facilitated change and provided a foundation for future data collection to evaluate the impact of ALbD.

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