Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Health Promotion, Education and Behavior

First Advisor

Andrew T. Kaczynski


Modifying the built environment is a promising way to promote youth physical activity and reduce obesity. Parks, in particular, are key intervention venues given their low cost and legislated ubiquity. Creating healthy communities, including better parks, will require the interest and participation of multiple constituencies, including youth. Creation of mobile technology environmental audit tools can provide a more interactive way for youth to engage with communities and facilitate participation in participatory action research (PAR) and health promotion efforts.

The purpose of the first study was to describe the development and validity and reliability testing of an electronic version of the Community Park Audit Tool (eCPAT). The newly developed eCPAT app consisted of 149 items and incorporated a variety of technology benefits. Criterion-related validity and inter-rater reliability were evaluated using data from 52 youth across 47 parks in Greenville County, SC. A large portion of items (>70%) demonstrated moderate to perfect or fair validity and reliability. Many items demonstrated excellent percent agreement. The eCPAT app is a user-friendly tool that provides a comprehensive assessment of park environments.

The purpose of the second study was to explore the use of eCPAT mobile technology on youth empowerment and advocacy within a PAR framework and examined tool usability, effectiveness on youth empowerment and advocacy, interaction effects between tool format and regular technology use, and tool format preferences. A total of 124 youth were randomized into one of three study conditions (Control, Paper, eCPAT). Intervention youth completed two park audits using paper-pencil or mobile technology tools. Youth completed pre and post surveys that measured tool usability and preferences, technology, empowerment, advocacy, and youth demographics. Youth indicated that the eCPAT tool had higher usability scores, was better liked, and was preferred over paper-pencil methods. No main or interaction effects were found for post levels of youth empowerment or advocacy between study conditions. Mobile technology should be viewed as a potential strategy for increasing youth empowerment and advocacy within PAR frameworks given its ubiquity, usability, and preference among youth. Future dissemination will integrate the eCPAT as a critical component of youth-led action oriented PAR projects to improve community health.


© 2015, Gina M. Besenyi