Background: Neighborhood environment factors may influence physical activity (PA). The purpose of this study was to develop and test a brief instrument to systematically document and describe the type, features, amenities, quality and incivilities of a variety of PA resources.
Method: The one-page Physical Activity Resource Assessment (PARA) instrument was developed to assess all publicly available PA resources in thirteen urban lower income, high ethnic minority concentration neighborhoods that surrounded public housing developments (HDs) and four higher income, low ethnic minority concentration comparison neighborhoods. Neighborhoods had similar population density and connectivity. Trained field coders rated 97 PA resources (including parks, churches, schools, sports facilities, fitness centers, community centers, and trails) on location, type, cost, features, amenities, quality and incivilities. Assessments typically took about 10 minutes to complete.
Results: HD neighborhoods had a mean of 4.9 PA resources (n = 73) with considerable variability in the type of resources available for each neighborhood. Comparison neighborhoods had a mean of 6 resources (n = 24). Most resources were accessible at no cost (82%). Resources in both types of neighborhoods typically had about 2 to 3 PA features and amenities, and the quality was usually mediocre to good in both types of neighborhoods. Incivilities at PA resources in HD neighborhoods were significantly more common than in comparison neighborhoods.
Conclusion: Although PA resources were similar in number, features and amenities, the overall appearance of the resources in HD neighborhoods was much worse as indicated by substantially worse incivilities ratings in HD neighborhoods. The more comprehensive assessment, including features, amenities and incivilities, provided by the PARA may be important to distinguish between PA resources in lower and higher deprivation areas.