Pilot evaluation of a walking school bus program in a low-income, urban community

Mendoza, Jason A.; Levinger, David D.; Johnston, Brian D.
January 2009
BMC Public Health;2009, Vol. 9 Issue 1, p1
Academic Journal
Background: To evaluate the impact of a walking school bus (WSB) program on student transport in a low-income, urban neighborhood. Methods: The design was a controlled, quasi-experimental trial with consecutive cross-sectional assessments. The setting was three urban, socioeconomically disadvantaged, public elementary schools (1 intervention vs. 2 controls) in Seattle, Washington, USA. Participants were ethnically diverse students in kindergarten-5th grade (aged 5-11 years). The intervention was a WSB program consisting of a part-time WSB coordinator and parent volunteers. Students' method of transportation to school was assessed by a classroom survey at baseline and one-year follow-up. The Pearson Chi-squared test compared students transported to school at the intervention versus control schools at each time point. Due to multiple testing, we calculated adjusted p-values using the Ryan-Holm stepdown Bonferroni procedure. McNemar's test was used to examine the change from baseline to 12-month follow-up for walking versus all other forms of school transport at the intervention or control schools. Results: At baseline, the proportions of students (n = 653) walking to the intervention (20% +/- 2%) or control schools (15% +/- 2%) did not differ (p = 0.39). At 12-month follow up, higher proportions of students (n = 643, p = 0.001)) walked to the intervention (25% +/- 2%) versus the control schools (7% +/- 1%). No significant changes were noted in the proportion of students riding in a car or taking the school bus at baseline or 12-month follow up (all p > 0.05). Comparing baseline to 12-month follow up, the numbers of students who walked to the intervention school increased while the numbers of students who used the other forms of transport did not change (p < 0.0001). In contrast, the numbers of students who walked to the control schools decreased while the numbers of students who used the other forms of transport did not change (p < 0.0001). Conclusion: A WSB program is a promising intervention among urban, low-income elementary school students that may promote favorable changes toward active transport to school.


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