Web Forum

Green Places, Play Spaces, Income, and Race:
How Parks and Recreation Can Support Physical Activity among Diverse and Underserved Populations
Wednesday, January 18, 2012 | 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM Pacific

Parks and playgrounds are important assets in promoting active living and overall health across broad segments of the population, yet not all communities have adequate access to such resources. Research shows that having a large number of parks nearby increases the likelihood of being physically active; and parks that include certain active recreation features such as trails, playgrounds and sport facilities may stimulate higher levels of park-based physical activity. But communities with higher poverty rates and communities with higher percentages of African Americans are significantly less likely to have parks and green spaces nearby. The research also suggests that parks and recreation may be more important in promoting physical activity among lower-income youth than among youth who come from more affluent neighborhoods. Therefore, it is critical that policy makers and advocates ensure that underserved communities have adequate access to parks and recreation resources.

Join us for an unprecedented Web Forum co-sponsored by Active Living Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. National leaders will summarize the science behind the role that parks and recreation play in supporting physical activity, share examples of park-based interventions designed to get people more active, and discuss why increasing access to parks and recreation resources is a matter of social justice.






    Andrew Mowen, PhD
    Associate Professor and Professor-in-Charge of Honors Programs
    Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management
    The College of Health and Human Development
    The Pennsylvania State University
    University Park, PA

    Andrew Mowen, PhDDr. Mowen is an Associate Professor in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management at The Pennsylvania State University. His research focuses on community parks and their role in shaping healthy lifestyles.

    Dr. Mowen has authored numerous articles, white papers, research syntheses, and presentations on this topic. He teaches park administration and facility planning coursework and advises undergraduate and graduate students. He is currently a board member for the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation and a member of the Research Advisory Committee for the National Recreation and Park Association. (www.hhdev.psu.edu/rptm)

    Deborah Cohen, MD, MPH
    Senior Natural Scientist
    RAND Corporation
    Santa Monica, CA

    Deborah Cohen, MD, MPHDr. Cohen is a researcher in the area of the built environment and health, and is the co-author of “Prescription for a Healthy Nation, A new approach to improving our lives by fixing our everyday world,” published by Beacon Press. She is Board Certified in Public Health and Preventive Medicine and currently a Senior Natural Scientist at the RAND Corporation.

    Dr. Cohen’s research has been focused on the role of the built environment in physical activity and dietary behaviors. She has conducted multiple environmental assessments: developing tools to study neighborhood incivilities, neighborhood design, billboards, alcohol outlets, in-store marketing strategies, and physical activity in parks. (www.rand.org)

    Deborah Lou, PhD
    Program Analyst
    Active Living Research
    A National Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
    University of California, San Diego
    San Diego, CA

    Deborah Lou, PhDDebbie Lou is the program analyst with Active Living Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Debbie engages advocacy, policy, and community groups to develop opportunities for research translation and dissemination, especially to ensure the research meets the needs of communities at highest risk for childhood obesity.

    Debbie is co-author of a research synthesis with Dr. Wendell Taylor titled “Do All Children Have Places to be Active?” This synthesis reviews evidence showing that lower-income people and racial and ethnic minorities often live in communities that discourage active living. (www.activelivingresearch.org)


    James F. Sallis, PhD
    Distinguished Professor
    Family and Preventive Medicine
    University of California, San Diego
    Active Living Research
    A National Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
    San Diego, CA

    James F. Sallis, PhDJames F. Sallis, Ph.D. is Distinguished Professor of Family and Preventive Medicine at University of California at San Diego, and Director of Active Living Research, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

    His primary research interests are promoting physical activity and understanding policy and environmental influences on physical activity and nutrition. He is the author of over 500 scientific publications and was identified as one of the world’s most cited authors in the social sciences. Time Magazine identified him as an “obesity warrior”. (www.activelivingresearch.org and http://sallis.ucsd.edu)


The following documents are PDF versions of the speakers’ presentations and are intended to be used for reference only.

Mowen/The Pennsylvania State University

Cohen/RAND Corporation

Lou/Active Living Research


The following documents provide important background information that can enhance the Web Forum experience.


The following websites provide important background information that can enhance the Web Forum experience.

SOPARC Park Observation


The organizations listed below have come together to sponsor this important effort:

Public Health Institute Logo The California Endowment http://www.activelivingresearch.org/

Public Health Institute

The California Endowment

Active Living Research