Should We Build Our School Here? Children’s Level of Fitness, School Site-Typology and the Built Environment


Should We Build Our School Here? Children’s Level of Fitness, School Site-Typology and the Built Environment


Milena Bernardinello, PhD1 and Aaron L. Carrel, MD2

1University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture.
2University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health Department of Pediatrics, Madison


International Research Journal of Public Health-2D code

Background: No prior studies have assessed the relationship of school-sites with children’s fitness, nor evaluated how it is influenced by types of built environments surrounding school-sites. Purpose: To create a typology of school-sites and assess their associations, with school-level cardiorespiratory fitness (PACER score), as well as 34 environmental measures, reflecting food retailers and parks.

Methods: PACER scores (#laps) were obtained on 20,900 children, 5-18 years-old, attending 103 rural and urban public schools in Wisconsin 2009-2010. Scores were aggregated at the school-level (mean 25.2±10.5). School-site typology reflects walkability context and parcel size. Schools were classified as: Neighborhood-School, Neighborhood-Campus, Neighborhood-Suburban, or Campus-School. Geospatial and linear regression were performed , overall and by sex and age strata, using a 1600-meter circular buffer around each school. Associations with school-level-PACER score were assessed for school types; density of unhealthy and healthier food retailers; and types of parks.

Results: Campus-Schools predict a school average-PACER 7 laps significantly higher than Neighborhood-schools. ‘Neighborhood-Campus’ showed the lowest PACER for males and 11-13 years-old (10 and 12 laps lower). Negatively correlated with average-PACER were, unhealthy convenience stores for both sex, large parks for females. More fast-casual restaurants predict higher average-PACER. Schools with more students predict higher average-PACER for males and 6-10 years-old.

Conclusion: Among Wisconsin schools, school-site and its context are associated with children’s physical fitness, suggesting that school-siting should include a health benefit analyses in the process. This study demonstrates the utility of school-level PACER scores and suggests further study of the mechanisms by which children’s fitness is influenced by food retailers around school zones.


Keywords: School typology, child fitness, PACER, food environment, geospatial analysis.

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How to cite this article:
Milena Bernardinello and Aaron L. Carrel. Should We Build Our School Here? Children’s Level of Fitness, School Site-Typology and the Built Environment. International Research Journal of Public Health, 2019; 3:31. DOI:10.28933/irjph-2019-04-0206


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