Journal of Public Health Policy

, Volume 30, Supplement 1, pp S1–S15

Connecting Active Living Research and Public Policy: Transdisciplinary Research and Policy Interventions to Increase Physical Activity

  • Joseph M Schilling
  • Billie Giles-Corti
  • James F Sallis
Guest Editors Introduction


National and international organizations recommend creation of environments that support physical activity where people live, work, play, study, and travel. Policy changes can lead to activity-supportive environments and incentives. Research on environmental and policy influences on physical activity is well underway in many countries. An important use of the research is to inform policy debates, but the “translation” of research to policy is an emerging science. The papers in this supplement were presented at the 2008 Active Living Research Conference whose theme was “Connecting Active Living Research to Policy Solutions.” The papers include evaluations of policy initiatives and research that suggests promising new policies. Commentaries propose principles for improving the translation of research to policy. Improving the rigor of research, asking policy-relevant questions, presenting country-specific data, and effectively communicating findings to policy makers are likely to contribute to greater impact of research on policy processes.


physical activity exercise built environment government 


  1. World Health Organization. Preventing Chronic Diseases: A Vital Investment. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2005.Google Scholar
  2. 3 Four 50: An Oxford Health Alliance Initiative. Available at, accessed 15 September 2008.
  3. Popkin BM . Global context of obesity. In: Kumanyika S, Brownson RC, editors. Handbook of Obesity Prevention: A Resource for Health Professionals. New York: Springer; 2007, pp. 227–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. World Health Assembly. Global Strategy on Diet and Physical Activity. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2004.Google Scholar
  5. Kumanyika SK, Jeffery RW, Morabia A, Ritenbaugh C, Antipatis VJ . Obesity prevention: the case for action. A report of the Public Health Approaches to the Prevention of Obesity Working Group of the International Obesity Task Force. 2000. Available at, accessed 15 September 2008.
  6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Office of the Surgeon General; 2001.Google Scholar
  7. Koplan JP, Liverman CT, Kraak VI, editors. Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2005.Google Scholar
  8. Pucher J . Transportation trends, problems, and policies: an international perspective. Transport Res Pt A – Policy Prac. 1999;33:493–503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Heath G, Brownson R, Kruger J, Miles R, Powell KE, Ramsey LT, and the Task Force on Community Preventive Services. The effectiveness of urban design and land use and transport policies and practices to increase physical activity: a systematic review. J Phys Activity Health. 2006;3 (suppl. 1):S55–S76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gordon-Larsen P, Nelson MC, Page P, Popkin BM . Inequality in the built environment underlies key health disparities in physical activity and obesity. Pediatrics. 2006;117:417–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Pate RR, Davis MG, Robinson TN, Stone EJ, McKenzie TL, Young JC . Promoting physical activity in children and youth: a leadership role for schools. Circulation. 2006;114:1214–1224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Simon CA . Public Policy Preferences and Outcomes. New York, NY: Pearson-Longman Education, Inc; 2007.Google Scholar
  13. Sabatier PA, Weible C . The advocacy coalition framework – innovations and clarifications. In: Sabatier P, editor. Theories of the Policy Process, 2nd edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press; 2007, pp. 189–220.Google Scholar
  14. Schmid TL, Pratt M, Witmer L . A framework for physical activity policy research. J Phys Activity Health. 2006;3 (suppl. 1):S20–S29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Global Physical Activity Alliance. Available at, accessed 15 September 2008.
  16. Brownson RC, Royer C, Ewing R, McBride TD . Researchers and policymakers: travelers in parallel universes. Am J Prev Med. 2006;30:164–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Sallis JF, Cervero R, Ascher WA, Henderson KA, Kraft MK, Kerr J . An ecological approach to creating more physically active communities. Ann Rev Public Health. 2006;27:297–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Sallis JF, Orleans CT, Buchner D . Active living research: a report on the first six years. Am J Prev Med. 2009;36 (2S):S1–S79.Google Scholar
  19. Brown LD, Kraft MK . Editors’ note on special issue: active living, the built environment, and the policy agenda. J Health Politics, Policy, Law. 2008;33:371–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Active Living Research. 2008 Conference Presentations. Available at, accessed 31 October 2008.
  21. Raczynski JM, Thompson JW, Cleveland HW . The 2008 active living research translating research to policy award. J Public Health Policy. 2009;30 (S1):Sv–Sviii.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Raczynski JM, Thompson JW, Phillips MM, Ryan KW, Cleveland HW . Arkansas Act 1220 of 2003 to reduce childhood obesity: its implementation and impact on child and adolescent body mass index. J Public Health Policy. 2009;30 (S1):S124–S40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Cradock AL, Troped PJ, Fields B, Melly SJ, Simms SV, Gimmler F, et al. Factors associated with federal transportation funding for local pedestrian and bicycle programming and facilities. J Public Health Policy. 2009;30 (S1):S38–S72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lachapelle U, Frank LD . Transit and health: mode of transport, employer sponsored public transit pass, and physical activity. J Public Health Policy. 2009;30 (S1):S73–S94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Dill J . Bicycling for transportation and health: the role of infrastructure. Public Health Policy. 2009;30 (S1):S95–S110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Nicoll G, Zimring C . Effect of innovative building design on physical activity. J Public Health Policy. 2009;30 (S1):S111–S23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kelder SH, Springer A, Barroso CS, Smith C, Sanchez E, Ranjit N, et al. Implementation of Texas Senate Bill 19 to increase physical activity in elementary schools. J Public Health Policy. 2009;30 (S1):S221–S47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Belansky ES, Cutforth N, Delong E, Ross C, Scarbro S, Gilbert L, et al. Early impact of the federally mandated local wellness policy on physical activity in rural, low-income elementary schools in Colorado. J Public Health Policy. 2009;30 (S1):S141–S60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Dodson EA, Fleming C, Boehmer TK, Haire-Joshu D, Luke DA, Brownson RC . Preventing childhood obesity through state policy: qualitative assessment of enablers and barriers. J Public Health Policy. 2009;30 (S1):S161–S76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Zhu X, Lee C . Correlates of walking to school and implications for public policies: survey results from parents of elementary school children in Austin, Texas. J Public Health Policy. 2009;30 (S1):S177–S202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Babey SH, Hastert TA, Huang W, Brown ER . Sociodemographic, family and environmental factors associated with active commuting to school among US adolescents. J Public Health Policy. 2009;30 (S1):S203–S220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Cohen DA, Sehgal A, Williamson S, Marsh T, Golinelli D, McKenzie TL . New recreational facilities for the young and the old in Los Angeles: policy and programming implications. J Public Health Policy. 2009;30 (S1):S248–S263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Neckerman KM, Lovasi GS, Davies S, Purciel M, Quinn J, Feder E, et al. Disparities in urban neighborhood conditions: evidence from GIS measures and field observation in New York City. J Public Health Policy. 2009;30 (S1):S264–S285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Roman CG, Knight CR, Chalfin A, Popkin SJ . The relation of the perceived environment to fear, physical activity, and health in public housing developments: evidence from Chicago. J Public Health Policy. 2009;30 (S1):S286–S308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Whitt-Glover MC, Taylor WC, Floyd MF, Yore MM, Yancey AK, Matthews CE . Disparities in physical activity and sedentary behaviors among US children and adolescents: prevalence, correlates, and intervention implications. J Public Health Policy. 2009;30 (S1):S309–S334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Goldstein H . Translating research into public policy. J Public Health Policy. 2009;30 (S1):S16–S20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Insall P . Can we achieve evidence-based policy and practice on active travel? J Public Health Policy. 2009;30 (S1):S21–S25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Garcia R, Fenwick C . Social science, equal justice, and public health policy: lessons from Los Angeles. J Public Health Policy. 2009;30 (S1):S26–S32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Moodie R . Where different worlds collide: expanding the influence of research and researchers on policy. J Public Health Policy. 2009;30 (S1):S33–S37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. World Health Organization. Obesity. Preventing and Managing the Global Epidemic. WHO Technical Report Series 894, Geneva: WHO; 2000.Google Scholar
  41. Kopelman P, Jebb SA, Butland B . Executive summary: foresight ‘Tackling Obesities: Future Choices’ project. Obes Rev. 2007;8 (suppl. 1):vi–ix.Google Scholar
  42. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. Promoting or Creating Built or Natural Environments that Encourage and Support Physical Activity. London: National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence; 2008.Google Scholar
  43. Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. Position Statement: The Built Environment, Physical activity, Heart Disease and Stroke. Ottawa: Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada; 2007.Google Scholar
  44. Australian Local Government Association. National Heart Foundation of Australia & Planning Institute Australia, Towards a national planning guide – Draft for discussion purposes from scoping stage; 2008.Google Scholar
  45. Papas MA, Alberg AJ, Ewing R, Helzlsouer KJ, Gary TL, Klassen AC . The built environment and obesity. Epidemiol Rev. 2007;29:129–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Robertson-Wilson J, Giles-Corti B . Walkabilility, neighbourhood design, and obesity. In: Townsend T, Alvanides S, Lake A, editors. Obesogenic Environments: Complexities, Perceptions and Objective Measures. London: Wiley-Blackwell; 2009.Google Scholar
  47. Owen N, Humpel N, Leslie E, Bauman A, Sallis JF . Understanding environmental influences on walking: review and research agenda. Am J Prev Med. 2004;27:67–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Active Living Research Literature Database. Available at, accessed 31 October 2008.
  49. International Physical Activity and Environment Network. Available at, accessed 15 September 2008.
  50. Cerin E, Leslie E, DuToit L, Owen N, Frank LD . Destinations that matter: associations with walking for transport. Health Place. 2007;13:713–724.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. De Bourdeaudhuij I, Sallis JF, Saelens BE . Environmental correlates of physical activity in a sample of Belgian adults. Am J Health Promot. 2008;18:83–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Frank LD, Schmid TL, Sallis JF, Chapman J, Saelens BE . Linking objectively measured physical activity with objectively measured urban form: findings from SMARTRAQ. Am J Prev Med. 2005;28 (2, suppl. 2):117–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Hoehner CM, Ramirez LKB, Elliott MB, Handy SL, Brownson RC . Perceived and objective environmental measures and physical activity among urban adults. Am J Prev Med. 2004;28:105–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Owen N, Cerin E, Leslie E, duToit L, Coffee N, Frank LD, et al. Neighborhood walkability and the walking behavior of Australian adults. Am J Prev Med. 2007;33:387–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Pikora TJ, Giles-Corti B, Kuiman MW, Bull FC, Jamrozik K, Donovan RJ . Neighborhood environmental factors correlated with walking near home: using SPACES. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006;38:708–714.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Van Lenthe FJ, Brug J, Mackenbach JP . Neighbourhood inequalities in physical inactivity: the role of neighbourhood attractiveness, proximity to local facilities and safety in the Netherlands. Soc Sci Med. 2005;60:763–775.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Bell A, Ge K, Popkin B . The road to obesity or the path to prevention: motorized transportation and obesity in China. Obesity Res. 2002;10:277–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Booth KM, Pinkston MM, Poston WS . Obesity and the built environment. J Am Diet Assoc. 2005;105:S110–S117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Ellaway A, MacIntyre S, Bonnefoy X . Graffiti, greenery, and obesity in adults: secondary analysis of European cross sectional survey. BMJ. 2005;331:611–612.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Frank LD, Andresen MA, Schmid TL . Obesity relationships with community design, physical activity, and time spent in cars. Am J Prev Med. 2004;27:87–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Giles-Corti B, MacIntyre S, Clarkson JP, Pikora T, Donovan RJ . Environmental and lifestyle factors associated with overweight and obesity in Perth, Australia. Am J Health Promot. 2003;18:93–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Popkin BM, Paeratukul S, Zhai F, Ge K . Dietary and environmental correlates of obesity in a population study in China. Obes Res. 1995;3:135s–143s.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Timperio A, Giles-Corti B, Crawford D, Andranopoulos N, Ball K, Salmon J, et al. Features of public open spaces and physical activity among children: findings from the CLAN study. Prev Med. 2008;47 (5):514–518.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wen LM, Orr N, Millett C, Rissel C . Driving to work and overweight and obesity: findings from the 2003 New South Wales Health Survey, Australia. Int J Obes (Lond). 2006;30:82–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Pucher J, Buehler R . Making cycling irresistible: lessons from The Netherlands, Denmark and Germany. Transport Rev. 2008;28 (4):495–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Boarnet MG, Day K, Anderson C, McMillan T, Alfonzo M . California's safe routes to school program – impacts on walking, bicycling, and pedestrian safety. J Am Plan Assoc. 2005;71:301–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. De Vries SI, Bakker I, Van Mechelen W, Hopman-Rock M . Determinants of activity-friendly neighbourhoods for children: results from the SPACE study. Am J Health Promot. 2007;21:312–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Hume C, Salmon J, Ball K . Children's perceptions of their home and neighborhood environments, and their association with objectively measured physical activity: a qualitative and quantitative study. Health Educ Res. 2005;20:1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Kerr J, Rosenberg D, Sallis JF, Saelens BE, Frank LD, Conway TL . Active commuting to school: associations with built environment and parental concerns. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006;38:787–794.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. McMillan TE . The relative influence of urban form on a child's travel mode to school. Transport Res Pt A. 2007;41:S203–S20 69–79.Google Scholar
  71. Van Lenthe F, Brug J, Mackenbach J . Neighborhood inequalities in physical inactivity: the role of neighborhood attractiveness, proximity to local facilities and safety in the Netherlands. Soc Sci Med, 2005;60 (4):763–775.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Giles-Corti B, Donovan RJ . The relative influence of individual, social and physical environment determinants of physical activity. Soc Sci Med. 2002;54:1793–1812.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. MacIntyre S, MacIver S, Sooman A . Area, class and health: should we be focusing on places or people? J Soc Pol. 1993;22 (2):213–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Crawford D, Timperio A, Giles-Corti B, Ball K, Hume C, Roberts R, et al. Do features of public open spaces vary according to neighbourhood socio-economic status? Health Place. 2008;14:889–893.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Timperio A, Ball K, Salmon J, Roberts R, Giles-Corti B, Simmons D, et al. Personal, family, social, and environmental correlates of active commuting to school. Am J Prev Med. 2006;30:45–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph M Schilling
    • 1
  • Billie Giles-Corti
    • 2
  • James F Sallis
    • 3
  1. 1.Metropolitan Institute at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityAlexandriaUSA
  2. 2.Centre for the Built Environment and Health at the School of Population Health, The University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  3. 3.Active Living Research, San Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA

Personalised recommendations