University of Illinois at Chicago Illinois Prevention Research Center

Evaluating Impact of Park Renovations on Physical Activity


Childhood obesity is a serious public health concern in the United States, and both physical inactivity and sedentary behaviors are important contributing factors. Youth who participate in daily moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity are less likely to develop a number of chronic diseases as adults, including obesity. Illinois and Chicago, in particular, suffer from higher than national average obesity rates, especially for children. Obesity rates among young children were 15% and 22% in Illinois and Chicago, respectively, almost twice the U.S. average (12%). Recent data shows that parks play an important role in youth physical activity, and playgrounds are a common park feature that are used more by children than any other park feature. Park condition and specific features (e.g., slides, climbers) also play an important role in ultimate park usage. Some studies show increased park use and physical activity following a park renovation, while others are inconclusive or show no change. Therefore, there is a need to further examine the impact of park renovations on park utilization and physical activity.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago Prevention Research Center will work with identified community stakeholders to conduct a comprehensive, rigorous evaluation of the impact of a Chicago Park District (CPD) park-based renovation. The two-phase research project will develop, implement and evaluate measureable strategies regarding how park-based playground renovations can increase local park access and use, addressing a key CDC Physical Activity Winnable Battles priority strategy. The findings of the study will be applied to ongoing park renovations by implementing a park coalition building intervention to increase local capacity and influence park-based utilization and physical activity.

During the study’s first two years, the project will involve examining how differences in community engagement and park programming, maintenance and safety, and variations in newly installed playground features influence park-based use and physical activity. During the third through fifth years, the project will develop, implement and evaluate a park coalition building intervention, based on lessons learned in Phase 1. This intervention will be aimed at renovated playgrounds to increase park-based use and physical activity through improved programming and ongoing maintenance and safety.

Results of this study will contribute to an understanding about how urban park revitalization and community engagement can help to increase physical activity and improve individual and community health.

Project Identifier Park Coalition Building Intervention

Funding Source PRC Program

Project Status Active

Host Institution University of Illinois at Chicago

Health Topics Healthy youth | Nutrition | Physical activity | Obesity & overweight

Research setting City/Town | County or parish |Community |Urban area |Rural area

Race or ethnicity No specific focus

Gender No specific focus

Age Group Children (4-11 years) |Adolescents (12-17)

Contact Information Center
Illinois Prevention Research Center
1747 W. Roosevelt Road
M/C 275, Room 558
Chicago, IL 60608

Principal Investigator
Lisa Powell
Phone: (312) 413-3544

PRC Deputy Director
Amber Uskali
Phone: (312) 355-1086