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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Johns Hopkins: Local Play-Based Program, Play Streets, Creates Opportunities for Physical Activity and Access to Resources

A local play-based program that’s been around since the 1930s provides opportunities for physical activity where they might not otherwise exist, according to a new paper from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers.

The paper was published in the September issue of Health Affairs.

The program, known as Play Streets, is typically organized by local governments and community organizations, most often in large U.S. cities, as a way to create safe spaces for physical activity, usually in the form of temporary street closures. The program was popular in New York City from 1929 to 1934 and in Philadelphia in the 1970s. More recently, there have been Play Streets in Seattle since 2013, in San Francisco in 2013 and 2017, and in Chicago since 2012.

For their study, a research team led by Dr. Keshia Pollack Porter, associate dean for faculty at the Bloomberg School and a professor in the Bloomberg School’s department of health policy and management, examined 162 of Chicago’s Play Streets that had taken place during the summer of 2018. The researchers assessed volume and type of physical activity among youth participants and the variety of services provided to residents. The researchers also analyzed implementation data and forms completed by organizers after Play Streets, and conducted systematic observations to measure physical activity at a sample of Play Streets.

Programs like Play Streets are promising, in that most U.S. cities lack built environments that support physical activity, which is a key determinant of health. However, making permanent changes to the physical environment to promote physical activity is not always feasible.

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