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Open Access Study protocol

The Strathclyde Evaluation of Children's Active Travel (SE-CAT): study rationale and methods

David McMinn1*, David A Rowe2, Shemane Murtagh2 and Norah M Nelson3

Author Affiliations

1 School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK

2 School of Psychological Sciences and Health, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK

3 School of Culture and Lifestyle, University of Derby, Buxton, UK

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:958  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-958

Published: 30 December 2011

Abstract

Background

The school commute is a prime opportunity to increase children's physical activity levels. However, active commuting has decreased over the past 40 years. Strategies that increase walking to school are therefore needed. Travelling Green (TG) is a school-based active travel resource aimed at increasing children's walking to school. The resource consists of a curriculum-based program of lessons and goal setting activities. A previous study found that children who received the TG intervention increased self-reported distance travelled to school by active modes and reduced the distance travelled by inactive modes. This study was limited by self-reported outcome measures, a small sample, and no follow-up measures. A more robust evaluation of TG is required to address these limitations. This paper describes the rationale and methods for such an evaluation of Travelling Green, and describes the piloting of various active commuting measures in primary school children.

Methods/Design

Measures of active commuting were piloted in a sample of 26 children (aged 8-9 years) over one school week. These measures were subsequently used in an 18-month quasi-experimental design to evaluate the effect of TG on commuting behaviour. Participants were 166 children (60% male) aged 8-9 years from 5 primary schools. Two schools (n = 79 children) received TG in September/October 2009. Three schools (n = 87 children) acted as a comparison group, and subsequently received TG at a later date. Physical activity was measured using Actigraph GT1M accelerometers. Personal and environmental determinants of active commuting were measured via parent and child questionnaires, as were factors related to the Theory of Planned Behaviour and the construct of habit. Measures were taken pre- and post-intervention and at 5 and 12 months follow-up.

Discussion

The piloted protocol was practical and feasible and piloted measures were reliable and valid. All study data, including 5 and 12 month follow-up, have been collected and processed. Data analysis is ongoing. Results will indicate whether TG successfully increases active commuting in a sample of Scottish school children and will inform future efforts in school active travel promotion.