Electronic Community Park Audit Tool (eCPAT) Project

Development and testing of mobile technology to engage youth in active living policy, systems, and environmental health promotion efforts

Modifying the built environment is a promising way to promote youth physical activity and reduce obesity. Parks, in particular, are key intervention venues given their low cost and legislated ubiquity. However, creating healthy communities, including better parks, will require the interest and participation of multiple constituencies, including youth. Creation of mobile technology environmental audit tools can provide a more interactive way for youth to engage with communities and facilitate participation in participatory action research (PAR) and health promotion efforts.  The overall purpose of the eCPAT project was to develop and test the acceptability, feasibility, and efficacy of an electronic version of the Community Park Audit Tool with youth.


The first stage of the eCPAT project focused on the development and validity and reliability testing of app version of the tool. The eCPAT application was developed based on the original Community Park Audit Tool (CPAT; funded by Active Living Research) following a five-phase process that included a comprehensive review of technology and health advocacy literature, key informant interviews, agile software and systems design, beta testing, and application refinement. The resulting pilot eCPAT app consists of two main interface screens, including a home page and a scrolling data entry screen with four main headings (e.g., park information, access and surrounding neighborhood, park activity areas, park quality and safety). The app incorporates numerous technology features to enhance functionality and promote user engagement, including an information button with instructions and example pictures, as well as camera, GPS, answer validation, and wireless data transfer capabilities.


ecpat graphic (2)


eCPAT Capabilities (2)

Criterion-related validity and inter-rater reliability were evaluated using data from 52 youth across 47 parks in Greenville County, SC. A large portion of items (>70%) demonstrated moderate to perfect or fair validity and reliability. Many items demonstrated excellent percent agreement. The eCPAT app is a user-friendly tool that provides a comprehensive assessment of park environments. Click here for more on validity and reliability results.

The second stage of the project explored the effects of eCPAT mobile technology on youth empowerment and advocacy within a PAR framework and examined tool usability, effectiveness on youth empowerment and advocacy, interaction effects between tool format and regular technology use, and tool format preferences. A total of 124 youth were randomized into one of three study conditions (Control, Paper eCPAT). Intervention youth completed two park audits using paper-pencil or mobile technology tools. Youth completed pre and post surveys that measured tool usability and preferences, technology, empowerment, advocacy, and youth demographics. Youth indicated that the eCPAT tool had higher usability scores, was better liked, and was preferred over paper-pencil methods (see table below). No main or interaction effects were found for post levels of youth empowerment or advocacy between study conditions. Mobile technology should be viewed as a potential strategy for increasing youth empowerment and advocacy within PAR frameworks given its ubiquity, usability, and preference among youth. Future dissemination will integrate the eCPAT as a critical component of youth-led action oriented PAR projects to improve community health. Click here for more on youth empowerment and advocacy.


Mobile App Screenshot 1 (2)


Current Stages

The paperecpat logo CPAT tool and guidebook are available for download on the KCPAPAP Project page.

Development of the eCPAT app is ongoing; however, the release date for v.1 is coming soon. Please sign up here to receive email updates.


Future Directions

We are currently seeking funds to significantly expand the eCPAT app into a comprehensive system that will have utility for researchers, parks and public health professionals, physicians, and citizens to aid in better evaluating, improving, and encouraging use of public parks for physical activity and improved public health outcomes.


More information

For additional information, please check out our presentation at the 2015 National Recreation and Park Association Annual Congress by clicking here. If you’d like to use the CPAT or eCPAT tools, feel free to contact us:

Gina Besenyi, MPH, PhD
Department of Kinesiology
Kansas State University

Andrew Kaczynski, PhD
Arnold School of Public Health
Prevention Research Center
University of South Carolina

Sonja Wilhelm Stanis, PhD
Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism
School of Natural Resources
University of Missouri