The effects of Play Streets on social and community connectedness in rural communities

Abstract

Promoting physical activity (PA) is a long-standing public health initiative to improve overall health and wellbeing. Innovative strategies such as Play Streets, temporary activation of public spaces to provide safe places for active play, are being adopted in urban and rural communities to increase PA among children. As part of these strategies, aspects of social and community connectedness may be strengthened. This study analyzes focus groups and interviews from rural Play Street implementation team members (n = 14) as well as adults (n = 7) and children (n = 25) who attended Play Streets hosted in rural North Carolina, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Texas to better understand the added benefits of Play Streets in community connectedness. Overall, elements of social support and social cohesion are mentioned most frequently with instrumental and conditional support; however, concepts of social capital, collective-efficacy, and social identification are also presented. Participants expressed that Play Streets provided more than just PA; they provided opportunities to access and share resources, build perceptions of safety and trust in the community, and develop relationships with others. Fostering community connection through Play Streets may reduce health inequities in rural communities by building community resilience. Community-based PA programming that enhance and capitalize on community connectedness could be effective ways to improving the overall health and wellbeing of residents.

Publication
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
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