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Parks for Activity and Recreation in the Community Study (PARCS)

Enhancing park-based physical activity among persons with disabilities across all ages

PARCS studyParticipation (through recreation) improves quality of life, health and well-being and decreases the risk of lifestyle related co-morbidities (e.g. cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and stroke). Traditional behavioural approaches, such as home-based, group-based and educational physical activity interventions, have produced only short-term effects focusing on individuals to improve physical activity have produced only short-term effects.

A broader solution encompassing environmental approaches to improve physical activity is promising. Parks and playgrounds (i.e. open green spaces) are an environment which all generations can enjoy (children, adults and older adults) together and individually at no or low cost. However, the design and environment of parks and playgrounds can prevent or deter, and therefore discriminate against persons with disabilities from participating in the incidental and/or purposeful physical activity and thus health (physical/psychological/social and spiritual) benefits which occurs within these public environments.

The PARCS team have a series of investigations currently underway to investigate the accessibility and usability of parks and playgrounds with potential opportunities to modify existing parks as sites for recreational physical activity among persons with disabilities. The results will be of importance for health care professionals, policy makers, and town planners in devising a sustainable approach to improve park-based physical activity in the community.


Research projects

Current research projects include:

  • Perceived barriers to accessing and using parks and gardens for physical activity among older adults with disability: A mixed method study. (Funded by a University of Otago Research Grant)
  • Perceived barriers to accessing and using parks and gardens for physical activity among children with disability: A qualitative study (Part funded by Porirua City Council)
  • Park-based physical activity interventions for people with disabilities: An integrative review (Funded by Collaboration of Ageing Research Excellence CARE Summer Scholarship)

Projects completed:

  • Accessibility and usability of parks and playgrounds in selected parks in Wellington, Hutt City and Porirua city. An on-site evaluation of accessibility and usability measures of selected parks and playgrounds.

Research students

Potential Masters or PhD projects:

The PARCS team would welcome any enquiries with respect to Research Degrees (Masters and PhD) from international or national students. Students from a range of disciplines (e.g. Physiotherapy, Occupational therapy, Public Health, Physical Education, Rehabilitation, Geography) are welcome to apply. Please contact Meredith Perry or School of Physiotherapy Research Coordinator

PARCS team

The PARCS research team include researchers from disciplines such as Physiotherapy, Geography, Occupational therapy, and Public Health.

Meredith PerryProject leader

Dr Meredith Perry, School of Physiotherapy, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand

Contact: meredith.perry@otago.ac.nz

Research team

Dr Hemakumar Devan, School of Physiotherapy, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand
Professor John Sullivan, School of Physiotherapy, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
Dr Christina Ergler, Department of Geography, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
Dr Pauline Boland, School of Occupational therapy, University of Limerick, Ireland
Ms Lesley Grey, Department of Primary Health and General Practice, University of Otago – Wellington, New Zealand
Dr Caroline Shaw, Department of Public health, University of Otago – Wellington, New Zealand.

Collaborators

City councils - Wellington, Hutt and Porirua City
Disability Organisations – CCS Disability Action, The Blind Foundation

Publications

Perry MA, Devan H, Fitzgerald H, Han K, Liu L, Rouse J. (2017) Accessibility and usability of community parks and playgrounds. Disability & Health https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dhjo.2017.08.011

Conference proceedings

Saitta M, Devan H, Boland P, Perry M. (2017) Health benefits of park-based physical activity interventions for persons with disabilities: an integrative review. Active Living and Environment International Symposium, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand (Platform)

Perry MA, Devan H, Fitzgerald H, Han K, Liu L, Rouse J. (2017) Accessibility and usability of community parks and playgrounds. Active Living and Environment International Symposium, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand (Platform)

In the news

Published media reports
http://www.odi.govt.nz/nz-disability-strategy/strategy-action-stories/outcome5-in-action-playable-porirua/