Evaluation of the implementation of an intervention to improve the street environment and promote walking for transport in deprived neighbourhoods

2017-08-10T13:46:06Z (GMT) by Emma Adams Nick Cavill Lauren Sherar
Background Levels of physical activity remain low, particularly in deprived areas. Improving the street environment to promote walking for transport using a community engagement approach is a potential strategy to increase physical activity. An understanding of the implementation of this intervention approach is needed to facilitate further research, replication and scale-up. The aim of this study was to evaluate the implementation of the Fitter for Walking (FFW) intervention in deprived neighbourhoods. Methods FFW was delivered in five regions of England between August 2008 and March 2012 and aimed to use a community engagement approach to improve the street environment to promote walking for transport. Implementation was assessed in relation to reach; dosage; implementation processes and adaptation; and factors influencing implementation. Three data sources were used: focus groups and face-to-face interviews with coordinators; implementation logs; and participation records. Results Reach: 155 community groups participated in FFW engaging 30,230 local residents. Dosage: A wide variety of environmental improvements were implemented by local authorities (LAs) (42 projects) and by communities (46 projects). Examples of LA-led improvements included removal of encroaching vegetation, new/improved pedestrian signage, new dropped kerbs/kerb improvements and new, repaired or improved footpaths. Examples of community-led improvements include planting bulbs, shrubs or bedding plants, clean-up days and litter pick-ups. In 32 projects, no environmental improvements were implemented. Promotional and awareness-raising activities were undertaken in 81 projects. Examples included led walks, themed walks, development of maps/resources to promote improved routes and community events. Processes and adaptation: The need for a planning phase, a preparatory phase, and a delivery phase with a four step process were identified. Adaptability to local context was important. Factors influencing implementation: Five key themes were identified in relation to the barriers and facilitators of implementing FFW: local knowledge and contacts; intervention delivery; coordinator role; working with LAs and other partners; and working with communities. Conclusions FFW is one of few reported interventions which have used a community engagement approach to change the street environment to promote walking for transport in deprived neighbourhoods. Delivering these types of interventions is complex and requires considerable resource and time. A set of recommendations and an implementation framework are proposed for future delivery of this and similar types of programme.