Evaluation of Active Living by Design

Active Living by Design (ALbD) community partnerships that did more preparation did implement more programs, promotions, physical projects, and policy influences. But partnerships working in non-White and poor communities implemented fewer interventions, according to this exploratory analysis to detect configurations of community characteristics.

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. Assessing the impact of interventions across communities presents “wicked problems” for evaluators: physical activity levels can be impacted by many interrelated pathways, and community-level interventions are inherently complex, with new actions overlaid on existing environments. This exploratory analysis, part of a three-year cross-site evaluation started in Year Three of ALbD funding, uses the innovative methods of “configural frequency analysis” to examine underlying configurations of community characteristics. The study relies on data from focus groups, interviews, and the ALbD Progress Reporting System.

Key Findings:

  • Community partnerships with more preparation activities, such as assessment and sustainability activities, did implement more active living promotions, programs, policy changes, and physical projects, thus generally attesting to the effectiveness of the ALbD model.
  • But community partnerships who work in communities where more than 40 percent of the population is non-White or more than 40 percent is impoverished implemented fewer such interventions.
  • Examination of varying configurations of community contexts, resources, and strategies implemented provide grist for hypotheses but few answers.

Noting this analysis provides more questions than answers, the authors outline practical areas of further inquiry for those working to improve active living interventions.