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Implementation contextual factors related to community-based active travel to school interventions: a mixed methods interview study



Active travel to school contributes to multiple physical and psychosocial benefits for youth, yet population rates of active travel to school are alarmingly low in the USA and many other countries. Though walking school bus interventions are effective for increasing rates of active travel to school and children's overall physical activity, uptake of such interventions has been low. The objective of this study was to conduct a mixed methods implementation evaluation to identify contextual factors that serve as barriers and facilitators among existing walking school bus programs.


Semi-structured interviews guided by the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR) were conducted with leaders of low-sustainability (n = 9) and high-sustainability (n = 11) programs across the USA. A combination of quantitative (CFIR-based) coding and inductive thematic analysis was used. The CFIR-based ratings were compared between the low- and high-sustainability programs and themes, subthemes, and exemplary quotes were provided to summarize the thematic analysis.


In both the low- and high-sustainability programs, three of the 15 constructs assessed were commonly rated as positive (i.e., favorable for supporting implementation): student/family needs and resources, implementation climate, and planning. Three constructs were more often rated as positive in the high-sustainability programs: organizational incentives and rewards, engaging students and parents, and reflecting and evaluating. Three constructs were more often rated as positive in the low-sustainability programs: student/family needs and resources - built environment, available resources, and access to knowledge and information. Four themes emerged from the thematic analysis: planning considerations, ongoing coordination considerations, resources and supports, and benefits.


Engagement of students, parents, and community members were among the factors that emerged across the quantitative and qualitative analyses as most critical for supporting walking school bus program implementation. The information provided by program leaders can help in the selection of implementation strategies that overcome known barriers for increasing the long-term success of community-based physical activity interventions such as the walking school bus.

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