Title: The Effects of Play Streets on Social & Community Connectedness in Rural Communities
Dr. Christina Bridges Hamilton, Assistant Professor in Public Health and Health Education co-authored a peer-reviewed journal article titled “The Effects of Play Streets on Social and Community Connectedness in Rural Communities.” Promoting physical activity (PA) is a long-standing public health initiative to improve overall health and wellbeing. Innovative strategies such as Play Streets, which involves the 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.
The purpose of the study was to examine the impact that Play Streets had on social and community connectedness in rural communities. Data were collected through focus groups and interviews with 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. Results indicated that elements of social support and social cohesion were mentioned most frequently with instrumental and conditional support; however, concepts of social capital, collective-efficacy, and social identification were 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 of improving the overall health and wellbeing of residents.