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DOI: 10.5888/pcd17.200061; PMCID: PMC7587300


PURPOSE AND OBJECTIVES: Walking school bus programs increase children's physical activity through active travel to school; however, research to inform large-scale implementation of such programs is limited. We investigated contextual factors, implementation outcomes, and student outcomes in existing walking school bus programs in the United States and internationally.

INTERVENTION APPROACH: Walking school bus programs involve a group of children walking to school together with an adult leader. On the trip to school, these adults provide social support, address potential traffic and interpersonal safety, and serve as role models to the children while children increase their physical activity levels.

EVALUATION METHODS: We conducted surveys with existing walking school bus programs identified through internet searches, referrals, and relevant email listservs. Leaders from 184 programs that operated at least 1 trip per week completed the survey. We used regression analyses to compare differences in contextual factors by area income and location, associations between contextual factors and implementation outcomes, and associations between implementation outcomes and student outcomes.

RESULTS: Walking school bus programs in low-income communities had more route leaders and engaged in more active travel to school-related activities of being sustained than those in higher income. Programs that had no external funding, multiple route leaders, and coordination by a school or district staff member (as opposed to a parent) had greater student participation than other programs. Providing more trips than other programs per week was associated with reduced tardiness, reduced bullying, and improved neighborhood walkability. The greatest barriers to implementation were recruiting and maintaining students and identifying and maintaining route leaders.

IMPLICATIONS FOR PUBLIC HEALTH: Walking school bus programs can be implemented successfully in many contexts using various models. The involvement of several people in leadership roles is critical for sustainability. Evidence-based implementation strategies that overcome barriers can improve reach, implementation, and sustainability of walking school bus programs and can increase children's physical activity.

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Preventing chronic disease [electronic resource]



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