Place Disparities in Access to Supportive Environments for Extracurricular Sport and Physical Activity in North Carolina Middle Schools

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Title: Place Disparities in Access to Supportive Environments for Extracurricular Sport and Physical Activity in North Carolina Middle Schools
Author: Edwards, Michael Bruce
Advisors: Michael Kanters, Committee Co-Chair
Jason Bocarro, Committee Co-Chair
Myron Floyd, Committee Member
Karla Henderson, Committee Member
David Brady, Committee Member
Abstract: Although the causes are complex, decreased levels of leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) are often cited as a significant reason for increased rates of childhood obesity in the U.S. Because of individual economic and social disadvantage, as well as a lack of accessible public recreation resources, adolescents who live in rural areas may be especially at-risk for obesity. Research has shown that well-designed extracurricular physical activity programs in schools can improve the LTPA levels of these adolescents. The purpose of this study was to determine whether local differences existed in access to supportive environments for extracurricular school physical activity for middle-school students in North Carolina. It also examined institutional and community systems that may influence the provision of LTPA opportunities. This study used Macintyre’s (2000) deprivation amplification model as a conceptual framework to examine differences in supportive environments for LTPA in middle schools. Because of fewer recreation resources for adolescents being available in rural communities, schools are important to the delivery of LTPA programming. An investigation of disparities in access to supportive environments for extracurricular school LTPA programs was needed to understand the opportunities rural children have to be physically active. The units of comparative analysis for this study were schools and their communities. Schools were clustered in school districts and therefore my analyses incorporated two levels. Through the use of multi-level modeling, I sought to examine how contextual place disparities emerge at the school and community level as well as school district level. Multiple sources of data (e.g. self-administered questionnaire to personnel at 325 middle schools, N.C. Department of Public Instruction, and U.S. Census) were integrated to analyze place disparities in access to supportive environments for LTPA in North Carolina middle schools. Aggregating environmental supports, a composite index for supportive environments was created for each school to use as a single dependent variable. Using multi-level modeling techniques to control for non-independence of schools clustered within school districts and to compare school/community-level (Level 1) and district-level (Level 2) influences on environmental support, regression models predicting environmental support from school compositional factors, community contextual resources and collective social functioning were generated. Study findings demonstrated that adolescents who live in more deprived rural areas in this sample had fewer environmental supports for extracurricular physical activity at their schools. These deficits were largely explained by a lack of economic resources. However, socio-cultural factors in rural areas may also influence the provision of school-based physical activity programs. More racially homogenous rural areas were more likely to overcome fiscal scarcity to offer broader physical activity programs, provide community access to school facilities, and partner with community organizations to support physical activities. School structure in rural areas was also associated with levels of environmental support. Lower levels of environmental support for extracurricular physical activity in rural schools may be a contributing factor to decreased LTPA and higher obesity rates observed in these areas.
Date: 2009-07-07
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management

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