Transforming City Streets to Promote Physical Activity and Health Equity.


Most U.S. cities lack built environments that support physical activity, which is a key determinant of health. Making permanent changes to the physical environment to promote physical activity is not always feasible. Play Streets are place-based interventions that are typically organized by local governments or community organizations, involve temporarily closing streets to create safe places and free opportunities for physical activity. In this descriptive study we examine Chicago’s PlayStreets held in summer 2018 (n=162) to assess the volume and type of physical activity among youth participants, and the variety of services provided to residents. We analyzed survey data and post PlayStreets forms, and conducted systematic observations at a purposeful sample of PlayStreets. We found that PlayStreets provide opportunities for youth physical activity in areas where opportunities do not otherwise always exist. PlayStreets also provide an avenue for residents to access community resources. This research of PlayStreets in Chicago showed how one city is temporarily turning streets into places for youth physical activity to advance health equity. Local policies that facilitate temporarily closing streets, and that provide resources to support opportunities for physical activity and access to community resources, can advance health equity in cities nationwide.

Health Affairs