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Open Access Research article

Pilot evaluation of a walking school bus program in a low-income, urban community

Jason A Mendoza12*, David D Levinger3 and Brian D Johnston4

Author Affiliations

1 USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center and Academic General Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, 1100 Bates St, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA

2 Dan L Duncan Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston TX, USA

3 T-Usability, 2808 NW 92nd St, Seattle, WA 98117, USA

4 Department of Pediatrics, University of Washington and Harborview Medical Center, 325 Ninth Ave, Seattle, WA 98104-2499, USA

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BMC Public Health 2009, 9:122  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-122

Published: 4 May 2009

Abstract

Background

To evaluate the impact of a walking school bus (WSB) program on student transport in a low-income, urban neighborhood.

Methods

The design was a controlled, quasi-experimental trial with consecutive cross-sectional assessments. The setting was three urban, socioeconomically disadvantaged, public elementary schools (1 intervention vs. 2 controls) in Seattle, Washington, USA. Participants were ethnically diverse students in kindergarten-5th grade (aged 5–11 years). The intervention was a WSB program consisting of a part-time WSB coordinator and parent volunteers. Students' method of transportation to school was assessed by a classroom survey at baseline and one-year follow-up. The Pearson Chi-squared test compared students transported to school at the intervention versus control schools at each time point. Due to multiple testing, we calculated adjusted p-values using the Ryan-Holm stepdown Bonferroni procedure. McNemar's test was used to examine the change from baseline to 12-month follow-up for walking versus all other forms of school transport at the intervention or control schools.

Results

At baseline, the proportions of students (n = 653) walking to the intervention (20% +/- 2%) or control schools (15% +/- 2%) did not differ (p = 0.39). At 12-month follow up, higher proportions of students (n = 643, p = 0.001)) walked to the intervention (25% +/- 2%) versus the control schools (7% +/- 1%). No significant changes were noted in the proportion of students riding in a car or taking the school bus at baseline or 12-month follow up (all p > 0.05). Comparing baseline to 12-month follow up, the numbers of students who walked to the intervention school increased while the numbers of students who used the other forms of transport did not change (p < 0.0001). In contrast, the numbers of students who walked to the control schools decreased while the numbers of students who used the other forms of transport did not change (p < 0.0001).

Conclusion

A WSB program is a promising intervention among urban, low-income elementary school students that may promote favorable changes toward active transport to school.

Trial Registration

ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00402701