Physical Activity and Redesigned Community Spaces (PARCS) Youth Cohort

Project Summary

The project team is examining the impact of New York City’s Community Parks Initiative (CPI), a citywide park redesign and renovation, on physical activity, park usage, psychosocial and mental health, and quality of life in underserved neighborhoods. They are following up on an existing cohort of parent-child dyads drawn from intervention vs. matched control neighborhoods from CPI. This natural experiment is a unique collaboration with NYC Parks and the city-led environmental change intervention is unprecedented in scale.

Research Question(s)

  • Will children (3-8 y at baseline) show a greater positive change in overall physical activity in intervention relative to control neighborhoods?
  • Will children show a significant increase in park usage, psychosocial wellbeing, and quality of life in intervention relative to control neighborhoods?


  • Inform future investments in health-oriented urban design programs and policies
  • Contribute to discourse around the potential to address health disparities through built environment strategies


The study builds on an ongoing natural experiment of 665 parent-child dyads in 13 intervention vs. 11 matched control park neighborhoods. The primary outcome is quality of life in children using a validated scale while the secondary outcome is objectively measured physical activity. Data will be analyzed by examining the change in outcomes pre-and post-park renovation in the intervention vs control groups. Longitudinal data will be analyzed using difference-in-difference and mixed models.


Table 1. Key Measures


Variables (Sources)

Park usage & improvements in park features, programs & quality (direct observations)
Process/fidelity measures

  • SOPARC: accessible, usable, equipped, supervised, organized activity, dark, empty, count of park users, gender, age, leve of PA
  • NYC Parks checklist: sustainability, accessibility, community health, safety & utility features, programming, partnerships
  • Park Quality Index: sustainability, beautification, community health, recreational options, accessibility, utility, safety

Pediatric quality of life
Primary outcome



  • KINDL Survey

Physical activity
Secondary outcome


  • Average counts per minute of PA via accelerometry (ActiGraph GT3X-BT)
  • Vector magnitude (VM) of PA via accelerometry (ActiGraph GT3X-BT)


  • Average counts per minute of PA via accelerometry (ActiGraph GT3X-BT)
  • VM of PA via accelerometry (ActiGraph GT3X-BT)
  • Minutes of sedentary & PA of different intensity (ActiGraph GT3X-BT)

Habitual park usage & engagement


  • Self-reported reason for visit, visit length, mode of transport to park, visit companions, travel time, frequency of park usage in past 3 months, level of PA while at park in past 3 months

Children (Parent Report)

  • Children’s frequency & level of PA in parks in past 3 months
  • Adult accompaniment

Parent support practices for PA


  • Controlling & support practices around PA


Park satisfaction & perception


  • Accessilbility, well kept, safety, ability to relax in park, ability to use for recreational purposes, walking distance, sufficient in neighborhood
  • Perception of neighborhood parks: overall quality, usage, attractive, safety, maintenance, shade, dog walking, facilities, presence of gangs or vandalism, children’s interest in parks, time to walk to park, importance of particular park features for encouraging park-based PA


Psychosocial/mental health
Secondary outcomes


  • Perceived stress scale
  • Quality of Life Short-Form 12
  • Public Health Surveillance Well-being Scale
  • Self-efficacy for Exercise Behaviors
  • Social Support for Exercise Behaviors

Children (Parent Report)

  • Physical well-being
  • Emotional well-being
  • Self-esteem
  • Relationships with family & friends
  • Everyday functioning (school or kindergarten)

Community well-being
Secondary outcomes


  • Collective efficacy & social cohesion
  • Perceived physical environment (Neighborhood Environment Walkability Scale)
  • Contact with friends & neighbors
  • Neighborhood Social Ties
  • Sense of Communtiy Index


Demographic information
Covariates, moderators


  • Age, sex, income level, education level, marital status, number of children, size of household, language spoken at home, length of residency in neighborhood, smoking status
  • Flu vaccination, coffee consumption

Children (Parent Report)

  • Age, sex, grade
  • Flu vaccination, tooth brushing behavior


Daily high & low temperatures, humidity & rain/sun conditions (PiLR EMA app)



The study builds on an ongoing natural experiment of 665 parent-child dyads in 13 intervention vs. 11 matched control park neighborhoods. The primary outcome is analyzed using a difference in difference approach for repeated measures via mixed-effects models. Intervention and control groups are compared 1-2 years post-renovation on the difference in secondary outcomes, including child’s park usage, psychosocial health and quality of life.

Group of women sitting on park bench with young child
Grantee and Partner organizations

CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy
New York City Department of Parks and Recreation
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Gillings School of Global Public Health

Grant status
In Progress
Principal investigators
Terry Huang, PhD, MPH, MBA
Katarzyna Wyka, PhD
Start date
Award amount
36 months

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