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Parents' perceptions of neighborhood safety have impact on kids' physical activity

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According to a study by researchers at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health, children from neighborhoods perceived as safe by parents engaged in more days of physical activity and were more likely to use recreational facilities than children from neighborhoods perceived as unsafe.

The review, led by Karla Galaviz, PhD, MSc in the Hubert Department of Global Health at Rollins was published in the October edition of the Journal of Physical Activity and Health. The team examined the relationship between parents’ perception of neighborhood safety and children’s physical activity and use of recreational facilities in a U.S. nationally representative sample of fifth grade children.

According to the study, children from neighborhoods perceived as unsafe by parents engaged in nearly one fewer day per week of physical activity. These children were less likely to use recreational facilities compared to children from neighborhoods perceived as safe. Less affluent families across rural and urban areas had half the odds of using recreational facilities compared with children from the the wealthiest families living in urban areas.

"Physical activity is vital for the health, growth and social development of children," explains Galaviz, who is a researcher within the Emory Global Diabetes Research Center. "Physical activity interventions should consider parental safety concerns and the economic disparities that are prevalent in less affluent areas. We should provide opportunities for children to be physically active and play outdoors; addressing parents’ safety concerns could improve those opportunities available in neighborhoods."

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