Objective: Develop rural-specific assessment tools to be used by researchers and practitioners to measure the activity-friendliness of rural communities. <br></br>Method: The tools were created through a mixed-methods investigation into the determinants of physical activity among rural populations. This informed the development of a conceptual framework defining activity-friendly rural environments. Questions were generated to reflect applicable existing urban-based variables and rural conceptual model elements. Pilot testing was conducted in seven rural US communities during the fall of 2008. Inter-rater reliability was assessed. <br></br>Results: The Rural Active Living Assessment (RALA) Tools include three components: Town-Wide (18 town characteristic questions, and inventory of 15 recreational amenities), Program and Policy (20 questions), and Street Segment (28 questions). We found that the Town-wide and Program and Policy tools were feasible for community members to implement. The observed agreement and k statistic across all items for the Street Segment Assessment were substantial (91.9% and 0.78, respectively). <br></br>Conclusions: The RALA Tools were shown to be feasible and reliability was supported. They assess features believed to be supportive of active living in rural environments, offer users a resource to assess rural environments for activity-friendliness, and may also inform the design of interventions to help rural communities become more active and healthy. [Journal Abstract]
Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy
Development of the Rural Activing Living Assessment Tools: Measuring Rural Environments
Cutler Institute awarded $600,000 to help youth raised in foster system
USM's Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy has been awarded a $600,000 grant to help young people raised in Maine's foster system to prepare for college and the workforce.
The money comes from the Annie E. Casey Foundation as part of a $5.4 million national effort aimed at youth who are homeless or in either the foster care or juvenile justice systems.
"Many of these young people have suffered abuse or trauma and were raised in poverty and neglect," said Marty Zanghi, the Cutler Center's youth development director.
The money -- including an expected $400,000 more in matching funds -- will pay for contracted work with agencies in the target areas, starting with the greater Portland area and Penobscot, Kennebec and Somerset counties.
Nationally and in Maine, only about 3 percent of people who grow up in the foster care system achieve a college degree, he said.
"It's dramatically lower than the rate for the general population," Zanghi said. "It's a horrible outcome."
It doesn't have to be that way, though.
"There are young people that overcome these circumstances," he said. "I know people who have master's degrees and Ph.Ds."
The Casey Foundation's national effort is being called the "Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential" (LEAP) initiative.
The initiative is working on partnerships in Maine and nine other areas: Alaska, Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and New York. In each case, people will adapt two evidence-based models to meet the needs of these youth, including support to address the trauma they may have experienced in their lives.
In Maine, the work will include a pair of successful programs, Jobs for Maine Graduates (JMG) and Jobs for the Future. Results will be carefully tracked, Zanghi said.
After the first year, the program is expected to grow.
"Eventually, the additional help will be available to all children, 14 and over, in the foster care system in the state of Maine," Zanghi said.