Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Promoting Schoolchildren's Physical Activity by Change in Transport to School Behavior: Statistical Analysis

By Houshmand E. Masoumi

During the past decade, a number or researchers have focused on the interdisciplinary topic of active transport to school (ATS) and children’s health and wellbeing including their body weight and Body Mass Index (BMI). Most of the recent studies are focused on a handful of high-income societies, leaving other countries less researched. Thus, this study targeted both high-income and less-studied contexts within the European context. The aim was to provide reliable inter-contextual data for facilitating comparative studies as well as undertaking preliminary analyses on the contextual differences in children’s walking to school, relationships between parent’s commuting mode choice and that of their children, the associations of built environment with ATS and BMI, and finally noteworthy points for interventions for promoting children’s school-based physical activity. Using the results of surveys undertaken in nine European cities in 2016, statistical analyses were conducted, which led to preliminary results confirming strong significant associations of the built environment with children’s ATS as well as strong and significant associations of parents’ commute mode choice with that of their children. These preliminary results do not confirm significant differences between walking to school in different European contexts. It is probable that these differences exist regarding biking to school, but this may be tested in future research. This study underlines the circumstances of planning a more active school commuting behavior in the future of European societies: activation of 9-12-year-old European children’s school commuting is recommended to be done by changing the parent’s commute mode choices as well as integrating urban planning, transportation planning, and school site selection in future urban plans. Awareness of policy makers, families, and also children may be essential in planning more active school commuting. Applying the results of the surveys done during this project, future research will target inter-contextual differences between factors such as physical activity, ATS, and BMI, correlations between the perceptions of children and parents regarding school commuting and neighborhood and the associations with physical activity and BMI, the possible importance of city size in determining all the above factors regardless of the national context, and the differences between the tendencies and phenomena influencing school commuting-related physical activity and BMI in emerging European countries compared to high-income countries.

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