Longitudinal Impact of a Park-Based Afterschool Healthy Weight Program on Modifiable Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors in Youth

Sarah Messiah, Emily M. D’Agostino, Eric Hansen, M. Sunil Mathew, Deidre Okeke, Maria Nardi, Jack Kardys, Kristopher Arheart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Community-based programs hold significant potential to prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk in youth. We describe here the longitudinal change in several modifiable CVD risk factors after participation in up to 3 years of Fit2Play™, a park-based afterschool program. Children ages 6–15 years old (N = 2261, mean age 9.0 years, 50% Hispanic, 47% non-Hispanic black, 54% male) who participated in Fit2Play™ for either 1–3 school years between 2010 and 2016 had height, weight, 4-site skinfold thicknesses, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, the progressive aerobic cardiovascular endurance run test, and health/wellness knowledge and behavior scores collected at the beginning and end of the school year(s). Effects of length of Fit2Play™ participation on CVD outcomes were assessed via 2-level repeated measures analysis adjusted for child sociodemographics, park, area poverty, and year. Adjusted models showed overweight/obese children who participated in up to 3 years of Fit2Play™ had a mean reduction of 8 mm in skinfold thicknesses; almost 0.5 SD’s in BMI z-score; 5 DBP %ile points; 17% reduction in probability of developing hypertension; and a mean increase of 6.4 PACER laps and 17% increase in health/wellness assessment compared to baseline. A dose-response trend was found for years of Fit2Play™ participation and improved CVD risk profile in participating youth. In conclusion, park-based afterschool programs that promote preventive CVD risk strategies can be an equitable, low-cost, high value tool for addressing our national epidemics of obesity, heart disease and diabetes and a rapidly changing healthcare system in need of evidence-based prevention programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Community Health
StateAccepted/In press - Jul 8 2017


  • Afterschool
  • Cardiovascular disease risk factor
  • Minority
  • Park
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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