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Open Access Study protocol

A natural experiment to examine the impact of park renewal on park-use and park-based physical activity in a disadvantaged neighbourhood: the REVAMP study methods

Jenny Veitch1*, Jo Salmon1, Alison Carver1, Anna Timperio1, David Crawford1, Elly Fletcher1 and Billie Giles-Corti2

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, VIC 3125, Australia

2 Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:600  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-600

Published: 13 June 2014

Abstract

Background

Modifying the built environment by improving parks is potentially a sustainable way to increase population level physical activity. Despite considerable investment in parks and park renovations, few natural experiments on the impact of improving amenities on park use and park-based physical activity have been conducted. REVAMP is a natural experiment that aims to examine whether park improvement increases overall park usage, park-based physical activity and active travel to and from the park in the intervention compared with the control park over a two-year period; and to identify which specific aspects of the park refurbishment attracts park visitors and encourages park users to be more active. This paper describes the methods of the REVAMP study.

Methods

The intervention park is a large regional park (329 hectares) located in a low socio-economic status (SES) area in the north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. The control park is a regional park (120 hectares) located in a high SES area in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Multiple methodologies to evaluate the impact of the park renovation are being employed including: cross-sectional surveys of local residents living near the two parks, direct observations of park users, intercept surveys with park users, and electronic monitoring of path usage and car traffic within the parks. Baseline measures were conducted in April-May 2013 (T1), and an innovative play space suitable for children of all ages and abilities was installed at the intervention park between September 2013 and February 2014. Follow-up measures will be repeated in April-May 2014 (T2) and April-May 2015 (T3). All methodologies will be completed at both the intervention and control parks at all three time-points, with the exception of the cross-sectional survey of local residents which will only be conducted at T1 and T3.

Conclusion

This research will inform future park developments, and will contribute to creating an evidence base of the impact of park refurbishment, and the development of natural experiment methodology.

Trial Registration

Current controlled trial ISRCTN50745547, registration date 11.1.2014.

Keywords:
Natural experiment; Park refurbishment; Physical activity; Park use