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American Foundation for the Blind to Research Physical Activity Levels Among People with Disabilities

Study Seeks to Uncover How Environment Impacts Exercise

NEW YORK (February 15, 2005)—Do community features actually limit physical activity for people with disabilities? The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is seeking to answer that question by studying how specific community features facilitate or inhibit exercise. The study is funded by an 18-month, $100,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through its Active Living Research national program.

With U.S. obesity rates on the rise, environmental planners are focused on the relationship between urban sprawl and physical activity. Yet, little research has been done to uncover which environmental barriers prevent people with disabilities from being more physically active. The AFB research team hopes to find out how various factors - like sidewalk disrepair or the fact that many trails in community parks are not accessible to people with disabilities - impact exercise for people who use mobility technology such as long canes, guide dogs or wheelchairs.

"Research shows that people with disabilities participate in physical activities far less than people without disabilities, which inevitably leads to greater health problems," said Carl R. Augusto, AFB CEO and President. "With this generous grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we hope to better understand which community features hinder or help physical activity for people with disabilities so that communities across the country can begin to make improvements."

The study, being led by Dr. Corinne Kirchner, Director, Policy Research and Program Evaluation at AFB, and Dr. Elaine Gerber, Senior Research Associate and Project Director at AFB, seeks 200 survey respondents from New York City's five boroughs. From those, 32 will be selected for more "intensive" participation, eight each who use long canes, guide dogs, manual wheelchairs and motorized wheelchairs. Through observation, physical exertion measures, telephone surveys, and in-depth, in-person interviews, AFB hopes to uncover how community settings impact physical activity.

At the conclusion of the study, AFB will prepare a comparison of neighborhoods within the city as a tool for policy-makers and other decision-makers.

To read the abstract of the research study or to find out more information, please visit AFB's website

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The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, based in Princeton, NJ, is the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care. It concentrates its grantmaking in four goal areas: to assure that all Americans have access to quality health care at reasonable cost; to improve the quality of care and support for people with chronic health conditions; to promote healthy communities and lifestyles; and to reduce the personal, social and economic harm caused by substance abuse - tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs.

Contact:
Adrianna Montague-Gray
AFB Communications
212-502-7675
amontaguegray@afb.net

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